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Twenty-eight Lee schools open Oct. 17-18; 36 more on Oct. 19; school bus stops won't change

Fort Myers Beach Elementary
Fort Myers Beach Elementary

The Lee County School District identified 28 schools that meet the criteria set for reopening in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and will be ready to begin classes on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 17 and 18.

On Friday the district listed 36 more schools that will resume classes on Oct. 19.

At a press conference Thursday, Lee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Christopher Bernier announced that aside from the 13 Lee county schools that will reopen from Hurricane Ian on Monday (10/17), more schools will follow. He also talked about combining classes from several schools and some of the issues involved.

“We have … I heard it referred to as the Lucky 13 today. We have the Lucky 13 that will be opening Monday," Bernier said. "As of 9 o’clock this morning, we had another 11 that will be notified today that they can reopen on Tuesday. That number is only going to go up."

The superintendent said the goal was to have all buildings open by Friday. Bernier also said three of the county's schools, Hector A. Cafferata, Jr. Elementary School, Fort Myers Beach elementary and The Sanibel School, would not be rebuilt "anytime soon" and asked for patience from the community.

Issues he said were important included air quality testing, reliable power and potable water.

A school district statement Thursday listed the following 13 schools—11 elementary and two middle—as the first to reopen to students:

  • Bonita Springs Elementary School
  • Bonita Springs Middle Center for the Arts
  • Colonial Elementary School
  • Diplomat Elementary School
  • Franklin Park Elementary School
  • Gulf Elementary School
  • Fort Myers Middle Academy
  • Orange River Elementary School
  • Orangewood Elementary School
  • Three Oaks Elementary School
  • Tice Elementary School
  • Trafalgar Elementary School
  • Tropic Isles Elementary School.

Later Thursday the following fifteen schools, 10 elementary, two high, one middle and two exceptional centers, were announced to be opening to students on Tuesday:

  • Allen Park Elementary     
  • Buckingham Exceptional Center     
  • Cypress Lake High School     
  • Edison Park Elementary     
  • Hancock Creek Elementary      
  • Ida Baker High School     
  • J. Colin English Elementary     
  • James Stephens Elementary     
  • Littleton Elementary     
  • Manatee Elementary     
  • Pinewoods Elementary      
  • Royal Palm Exceptional Center     
  • Tanglewood Elementary     
  • Three Oaks Middle     
  • Villas Elementary

Another 32 schools were listed by the district on Friday as being open to students on October 19:
Cape Elementary
Edgewood Elementary
Fort Myers Beach Elementary  *Combined with San Carlos Elementary
G. Weaver Hipps Elementary
Gateway Elementary
Harns Marsh Elementary
Lehigh Elementary
Mirror Lakes Elementary
Patriot Elementary
Pelican Elementary
Ray V. Pottorf Elementary
Rayma Page Elementary
River Hall Elementary
San Carlos Park Elementary
Spring Creek Elementary
Sunshine Elementary
Tortuga Preserve Elementary
The Alva School
Bayshore Elementary
Treeline Elementary
Harns Marsh Middle
Oak Hammock Middle
Varsity Lakes Middle
The Sanibel School  *Combined with San Carlos Elementary
Veterans Park Academy for the Arts
Lehigh Acres Middle
Cape Coral High
Dunbar High
East Lee County High
Estero High School  
Island Coast High   
Lehigh Senior High  
Mariner High
Riverdale High
South Fort Myers High
Cape Coral Technical College

In addition to the schools reopening, the district said if a student has not moved and has not changed schools, their regular bus stop information has not changed and there is no action need taken. 

"We will run the routes just as before the hurricane," a release from the district outlined. "If your child is attending their same school but at a partner school location, your bus stop has not changed.  The times may change so please attend your school’s student reunification day for any updated stop times. If you have moved because of damage to your home and need to know where your child’s new bus stop is, you can use the MapNetsystem to find the closest stop to your new residence."

Is a student has changed schools, the same system can be used to also find the student's child’s closest bus stop.

Follow these simple steps to find your child’s stop.
1. Log on to MapNet
2. Enter your address and street name
3. Use the drop down menu to choose your child’s school
4. Click Submit

The results will provide the bus number, the stop location and the time for pickup and drop off. Disregard the message in the results box that says, “Your address is eligible for transportation but busing has not been assigned,” and use the identified bus number and stop location.

When the student’s school opens, contact them to update your address. School staff will then be able to issue bus passes and assign the new bus and stop location to the student’s transportation records.

The superintendent recognized that there would be issues raised by some parents due to having to combine classes from multiple schools.

"I know some of you are unhappy that we had to split some of those schools," Bernier said Thursday. "It's unfortunate that I do not have enough temporary space for a school building of 750 or 1,000. I was able to split those populations and I realized this can create an undue burden if you have a second grader and a fifth grader. I will apologize up front, but that was to prevent something even more disruptive, which would be a double session."

A statement by Bernier described the methods and reasons for setting the criteria.

The District's statement said daily updates would be provided on the schools cleared to open and the first day of class for the students. Schools that are cleared to open will provide their families more information about the return to school.

Criteria being used to determine when to open a school include the following elements. No school will be allowed to open until all nine criteria are met:

1. Reliable power: A school must have consistent electricity to operate the entire campus.
2. Potable water: A school must have a safe supply of drinking water.
3. Professional assessment: A building professional must assess the school buildings and determine them safe to occupy. Any safety concerns must be mitigated or resolved.
4. Leak secure: School windows and roofs must be able to prevent a severe intrusion of water.
5. Working air conditioning: A school must have an assessed and operating HVAC system.
6. Functioning fire alarm and intercom: A school must be able to activate its fire alarm and school intercom in case of an emergency.
7. Indoor air quality: A school must have the air quality assessed by an industrial hygienist.
8. Debris cleaned up: A school must have storm debris either removed or stored in a safe and secure location.
9. Ability to serve food: A school must be able to provide students with grab and go meals. We look forward to providing you further updates and information as we clear schools to open and welcome students back to their campuses.

Additionally, the district is opening temporary satellite Student Enrollment offices on Thursday and Friday to help families that were forced to move or take temporary housing by Hurricane Ian.

Displaced or relocated families will have the opportunity to enroll their students into a school in their new zone. The satellite offices will be open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., or until the last person in line receives assistance.

There are two Student Enrollment satellite locations in each zone:

West Zone

  • Cape Coral High School2300 Santa Barbara Blvd, Cape Coral, FL 33991
  • Island Coast High School2125 De Navarra Pkwy, Cape Coral, FL 33909

East Zone

  • Lehigh Senior High School901 Gunnery Rd N, Lehigh Acres, FL 33971
  • Gateway High School13820 Griffin Dr., Fort Myers, FL 33913

South Zone

  • Bonita Springs Middle School10141 W Terry St, Bonita Springs, FL 34135
  • United Way of Lee County7273 Concourse Drive, Fort Myers, Florida 33908

The Student Enrollment Office at Lee County Public Education Center at 2855 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers will also be open to assist families from any of the School District’s three zones. Social workers, Exceptional Student Education and bilingual support will be available at each location.