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  • Writer's pictureJ.D. Merrill

Hurricane Ian Impact Report: Florida School Reopening Status

On September 28, 2022, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwestern Florida. Characterized by maximum sustained winds of 155 mph, just shy of a Category 5 storm, Ian’s destruction is well documented and has captured the nation’s full attention. Ian tied the record for the fifth-strongest hurricane on record to strike the United States and was the strongest hurricane to hit Florida since Michael in 2018. Ian was the first Category 4 hurricane to impact Southwest Florida since Charley in 2004 (National Environmental Satellite Data and Informational Service).

Millions of Florida K-12 students missed school the week of September 28th, as at least 55 of Florida's 67 public school districts closed for at least one day, according to Florida’s Department of Education.

The most severe impact has been felt in Florida’s Lee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties, where schools are closed until further notice or have goals to return October 17th.

Meanwhile students attending Sarasota and Hardee county schools aim to return October 10th.

Students in less severely impacted counties (Collier, Volusia, Highland, Cape Coral, Orange, Osceola, Manatee, Polk, and more) returned to school October 4.

A current list of school districts experiencing school closures of two days or more can be found in the dataset below.

According to NPR, more than 2.5 million students have experienced school closures longer than 3 days with 1.7 million students in the aforementioned Lee, Charlotte, and Desoto counties still awaiting their October 10 and 17 return dates.

As recovery and reopening efforts continue, state officials are providing school districts and public charter schools impacted by Hurricane Ian with flexibility as to how to best support students' return to schools, with many districts actively working to adjust their Thanksgiving breaks to make up for lost instructional time.

Furthermore, affected school districts and public charter schools that were closed for at least one day from September 30 to October 14 now have the option to choose an alternative attendance window for submitting student enrollment numbers to the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP). This data is critical for school operations, as it is used by the FEFP to allocate school funding.

The situation here on the ground continues to be dire, and I have extended my service with World Central Kitchen for another week to support Southwest Florida’s students and families as we await the restoration of power, water, and school reopening.

Thank you to Mangrove Strategies contributor Ty McLaren for his work on this report.

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