SARASOTA COUNTY (WFLA) – Thousands of students in Sarasota County returned to school Monday after almost two weeks off due to Hurricane Ian. 35 schools in the northern portion of the county reopened. District officials say the eight south county schools that are still closed are on track to reopen to students, staff next Monday, Oct. 17.
Last week, district officials said in a news conference that all schools districtwide suffered some level of water instrusion from the storm. In an update Monday, officials let the public know where the clean up and recovery process stands for the campuses that were harder hit.
“We feel good about where we are. We’ve got indoor air quality testing going on as we make repairs to make sure everything is safe in south county for students,” said the district’s chief operating officer Jody Dumas. “Obviously we had more water in buildings in south county, and so we are making every effort to make sure wet materials are removed from schools, dried out and tested before students come back,” he continued.
Debris management is expected to continue on a number of campuses for several months, according to district officials.
It remains unclear whether or not students will have to make up days at the end of the school year.
“If we change the calendar, it would have to be voted upon by the board. So we are in conversations right now to figure out exactly how we are going to do that,” said Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen.
The superintendent said schools in north county reopened Monday with full staffing from teachers to bus drivers and cafeteria workers. However, with many employees who live further south still facing hardship after losing their homes and cars, it is still to be determined what staffing will look like next week when the remaining schools reopen.
“We are hopeful that our south county folks will be able to come to work. I know a lot of them had quite a bit of damage on their homes and cars and other related items. However, last week, we had all of our teachers report to work and they could go to other schools if they wished because the south county schools were not open, so we felt pretty good about the number of folks who are coming in,” said the superintendent. “A couple days before we open on the 17th, we’ll have an even better idea, but we are very hopeful that we will have our teachers close to fully staffed in the south.”
To help the educators and support staff who are still trying to recover from the storm, the district is hosting a relief event Tuesday, Oct. 11. It will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Suncoast Technical College’s North Port campus located at 4445 Career Lane. Employees will need to present their school ID or another picture ID to attend the event.