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Aftermath of Hurricane Ian Continues for Embattled Florida School Districts

Hurricane Ian became one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in recent years, causing power outages, flooding and millions in damage.

The storm made landfall near Fort Myers, Florida, as a Category 4 hurricane. As it made its way across the state and toward the Atlantic Ocean, “once-in-a-thousand-year flooding” extended from the Gulf Coast, across Orlando and to the Atlantic Ocean.

Once out in open seas, Ian turned northwest before making landfall again, this time as a Category 1 hurricane on Friday 80 miles north of Charleston, South Carolina. With it came strong winds, heavy rains and flooding from Georgia to southern Virginia.

Mike Bullman, the director of transportation at the South Carolina Department of Education, told School Transportation News that reports from all 42 facilities resulted in minimal damage. He noted that there was minor roof damage to two shops and no damage to any buses.

“All state, county and school districts are reporting operating on normal schedules,” he added. “It appears to be business as usual.”

School districts along the Florida impact zone, however, did not fare as well. While most schools in the state will open over the next week, thousands of students in the Fort Myers and outlying areas will attend virtual classes as it is expected to take several months to repair severely damaged school buildings.

At this report, the School District of Lee County was determining exactly how much damage had been done, as water mains and the local power grid sustained severe damage. During a press conference, Lee County Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier said he doesn’t know when classes will resume. He added that school sites would remain closed as long as they were without water and power. He asked the public for patience.

A school district Facebook post added that 54 percent of the school sites were in need of minor repairs, while 14 percent had major damage. Some of the latter may be beyond repair, Leon County officials noted. Additionally, all district offices remained closed this week because buildings were without power and water.


Related: Florida School Districts Prepare for Hurricane Ian
Related: Dallas ISD Transportation Employees Save Children from Flood Waters
Related: Tennessee School Bus Driver Recounts Moments After Winds Flipped School Bus


Meanwhile, Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Vickie Cartwright said that she was inquiring how her district near Miami could help Lee County and others with the aftermath. She said Broward County is also working to make places available in its schools for the children and teenagers of families who need to temporarily relocate due to their homes being damaged or destroyed by Ian.

“This was a significant and catastrophic event, and it will have a major effect on the lives of families and individuals,” said Cartwright. “We will welcome families to Broward County who need to enroll their students in our schools. We want to help in any way we can.”

Cartwright added that Broward school buses that were parked in areas subject to flooding were moved to higher ground. The outer edges of Ian caused extensive rain and some heavy winds, but no Broward buses were damaged. She said that Broward is unable to loan school buses to the hardest-hit counties because the district has few buses to spare.

Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis said his administration has been assessing the situation and seeking ways to begin the process of returning to normalcy. However, this will take some time because basic infrastructure such as water mains, roads, bridges, and the power grid have been damaged. Many roads and bridges have been washed away and there has been significant flooding. The storm caused at least $100 billion worth of damage.

Contributor David Volz contributed to this report. School Transportation News requests for comment made of the Florida Association of Pupil Transportation and the Florida Department of Education have yet to be answered as of this report.

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