On Wednesday afternoon, the Lee County School Board will discuss three options for the future of Fort Myers Beach Elementary, left in ruins by Hurricane Ian, after months of parents pushing to get it reopened.
Piles of broken glass, concrete, desks and ruined floors are all that was left of Fort Myers Beach Elementary after Ian submerged the building in water. As soon as cleanup was underway in Southwest Florida, local parents began efforts to get this school repaired ad reopened. The part that angers many of them is the waiting, wondering if their school on the island will ever reopen.
“One of the reasons we came back to the beach and have stayed on the beach is so that our daughter could attend Fort Myers Beach Elementary,” said Ashley Bowers, another local parent. “My husband grew up on the beach and also attended, and we really wanted her to have a quality education in a small community.
The least expensive of the options for Fort Myers Beach Elementary restores the school, takes away some outer buildings and cleans up the site. Students would relocate to neighboring schools. The second option restores the building and stabilizes the campus before site improvements in a second phase, as enrollment projections warrant. The last option is a fully portable campus for the fall, with the option to build a new school at a projected cost of $24 million.
Parents are angry and frustrated there is still no decision nearly five months after the storm. They don’t want Fort Myers Beach Elementary to become a memory.
“It’s what’s made us a community,” said local grandmother Jane Plummer. “Without our school, we’re hotels and rental properties… the beach school brings us together as a community. And it’s what’s going to bring families to the island.”
“I know that for me, as a parent right now, I need a temporary solution to come onboard as soon as possible to get my child back in his school with his friends, so I can get his life back to normalcy,” said John Koss.
“We all have smiles on our faces because we’re brave and strong for the students,” said Fort Myers Beach Elementary School teacher Lori Zamniak. “But deep down and behind that smile is worry. Worry that not only have they lost everything—their houses, their toys, their rooms, their classroom—that now they’re going to lose their school, too, and that is the big fear of every single one of us.”
The meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m.