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School leaders assess damage, begin process of contingency

Posted at 4:38 AM, Oct 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-04 10:21:55-04

FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla. — The grim reality is that some school facilities in the hardest-hit areas of Lee County may have to be razed and rebuilt after Hurricane Ian.

A series of photos released by the School District of Lee County on Sunday show varying degrees of damage to the Sanibel School, Pine Island Elementary, and Fort Myers Beach Elementary.

Standing water, downed trees and elements of buildings strewn across campus are common features in the photographs.

Evidence of the devastating storm surge at Fort Myers Elementary can be seen in one photo, in which the waterline of the flood was left just inches from the top of a pair of steel doors.

Waterline at doors on Fort Myers Beach Elementary campus

District leaders said that every campus in the district has undergone at least one initial damage assessment and inspectors are in the process of completing a more detailed report for board leaders.

Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier said it is evident that some buildings 'will be beyond repair,' and others will require substantial work to be made usable again.

Without mentioning specifics, Bernier said 54% of buildings were in "low need" of repair. 14% suffered "major damage."

"We are in the middle of a historic event," said Bernier. "We are ground zero for Ian. We were, and still are, significantly impacted. That is not going to stop us from opening schools as soon as possible.

Bernier said that while schools are not going to open this week, "we certainly are not going to wait until January." He said the district is working with the Florida Department of Education for contingency plans with campuses that will have to remain closed.

Short-term plans and reopening schedules are expected to be discussed at a school board meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Statewide, the FDOE said 68 out of 75 school districts affected by Ian's landfall have reopened as of Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, the district is also working to make sure its students and their families have the necessary things they need for day-to-day living. In conjunction with the Miami-Dade school district, Lee County Schools will be hosting a food distribution event Wednesday from 12:30 to 2:30 at the School District offices on 2855 Colonial Blvd.