All the state’s students will be back to the books by Oct. 17
Fort Myers Beach Elementary School suffered damage in Hurricane Ian.

But it might not be at the school attended before the storm.

A key milestone in Hurricane Ian recovery now has a date: All of the state’s students will be back hitting the books by Oct. 17 — although it might not be in the school they attended before the storm hit.

Charlotte, DeSoto, Lee and Sarasota schools, which had been closed until further notice, will be in session 19 days after the storm hit, according to a Florida Department of Education website. Some of Sarasota’s schools, in “Phase One,” are opening today. Another set will reopen next Monday.

Lee County schools Superintendent Christopher Bernier said, in a Friday statement, that Oct. 17 is “a goal.”

“Our goal is to return, and I say it again ‘our goal,’ is to return all students to an educational environment on Monday Oct. 17 … no matter what the status of their school building,” Bernier said.

He said some buildings could be hosting double sessions of schools, based on the number of buildings ready to go.

Some of the closed schools were being used as shelters for people displaced in the hurricane. Some were badly damaged, some in Lee County are going to need rebuilding, Bernier said.  

By Oct. 17, some students will have missed 13 school days because of the powerful storm that came ashore in Lee County and spread misery from Key West to Pinellas County, and then east through the midsection of the state.

Central Florida schools east of DeSoto County were able to reopen last week.

Because of the storm, the state is changing the dates when schools must report attendance and the number of open classrooms to the state. There are five periods that school districts are required to report the number of students attending and classrooms open, and the count between Sept. 30 and Oct. 14 is one of those periods.

But this year, school districts can choose another attendance window for the report, according to a news release from the state Education Department.

“As district leaders and their teams work around the clock to take care of their communities and reopen schools in the wake of Hurricane Ian, they should not fear losing state education funding due to the storm,” Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. said in a statement.

“Allowing affected districts to base their student reporting on attendance prior to the hurricane will ensure districts are not negatively impacted any further.”

Anne Geggis

Anne Geggis is a South Florida journalist who began her career in Vermont and has worked at the Sun-Sentinel, the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Gainesville Sun covering government issues, health and education. She was a member of the Sun-Sentinel team that won the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the Parkland high school shooting. You can reach her on Twitter @AnneBoca or by emailing [email protected].


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