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Some 12,000 Sarasota students must wait another week for schools to open after Hurricane Ian

A screenshot of a man in a white button down shirt speaking at a podium
Sarasota County Schools
Sarasota County School Superintendent Brennan Asplen spoke at a press conference Monday.

The storm damaged buildings, flooded classrooms and left debris around campuses. Many schools also served as shelters for hurricane evacuees, and needed to be cleaned.

Eight schools in the hard-hit southern part of Sarasota County are still closed, almost two weeks after Hurricane Ian hit, but superintendent Brennan Asplen said they expect to reopen Oct. 17.

The closures affect more 12,000 students in a district of 45,000 students, Asplen said at a press conference Monday.

"We've got the indoor air quality testing going on as we make repairs to make sure everything's safe in South County for students," said chief operating officer for Sarasota Schools, Jody Dumas.

"Obviously (we) had more water in buildings in South County. And so making every effort to make sure wet materials are removed from schools, dried out, tested before students come back," he added.

School officials are also trying to help families in need apply for local, state and federal funds, as some remain without shelter and transportation after their homes were damaged in the Category 4 hurricane.

Chris Renouf, chief academic officer, said the school district is keeping in touch with children and their families.

"For our schools in Northport and Englewood, each school has reached out to their families to assess the needs and connect with them," Renouf said. "Resources that keep students engaged during this time of transition, customized learning plans, and opportunities have been formulated to address the specific needs at each level, elementary, middle and high."

School in the northern part of Sarasota reopened Monday for the first time since closing September 27 due to the approach of Hurricane Ian.

Sarasota district leaders say they are still trying to figure out if the school year will be extended or not.

If the phased re-opening plan continues as scheduled, northern Sarasota schools will have missed nine days of learning; southern county schools 14 days due to the storm and its aftermath.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.