More than half of Lee County’s schools were damaged after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s southwest coast last week, according to the Lee County School District.
“According to our preliminary damage assessment, 54% of our schools have minor repair needs, but 14% have major damage. Some may be beyond repair,” says the district’s Facebook page.
Photos from Fort Myers Beach Elementary show desks and debris piled up in hallways, mud filling the cafeteria and storm surge water lines nearly reaching the tops of the doors.
Superintendent Christopher Bernier said in a video message that officials know the condition of each school building after an initial assessment.
“We think some schools are ready to open. Others require minimal work. Some of our schools will require significant repairs and as expected there are some with damage that is yet to be repaired,” he said.
Bernier did not have an estimate for when schools would reopen, but vowed to do so as quickly and safely as possible.
“We are in the middle of a historic event,” he said. “However, this will not prevent us from opening our schools as soon as possible. Although we won’t open this week, we certainly won’t wait until January.’
The district is working with the Florida Department of Education to come up with a plan that could relocate students, teachers and staff.
Some schools are being used as evacuation shelters, the official said.
“We will return to the identity. We will restore what this storm tried to take away and prove that we will help our children, families, employees and community move forward,” he said. “This process will be developmental and transitional, but we will reopen.”
Lee County will hold a school board meeting Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, according to its website.