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Sarasota County Schools closed indefinitely after Hurricane Ian's impacts

“We’ve been assessing our schools trying to figure out what all the damage is out there,” a school official said.

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. — As Hurricane Ian cleanup takes place across the southwestern Florida region, Sarasota County Schools are closed indefinitely.

Everything is up in the air. There are still many questions as to when schools will open, what schools are damaged and who can return.

“Every time something happens, it’s like a reset for everybody,” Velissa Donato, a Sarasota County parent, said.

Sarasota County schools are closed as crews clean up and make repairs.

“We’ve been assessing our schools trying to figure out what all the damage is out there,” Dr. Brennan Asplen, Sarasota County School District superintendent, said.

Asplen said at least half the schools are still without power. 

“We have teams of our maintenance crews going around assessing damage and working with our contractors and the contracts we have to get those repairs complete," he said. "Then, we have our custodial staff. They’re all over the district right now cleaning schools and doing what they can to get back to where we need."

There is also the problem of staff needs. 

“We have staff that has lost their houses, part of their homes, staff that have been isolated,” Asplen said.

The district is also running two shelters for community residents. 

“We’re still helping over 100 clients here who have medically dependent needs, which is oxygen and or electricity," Steve Huard, Sarasota County community preparedness planner, said.  "Before we can close this shelter down, we either have to have a place to move these folks to or we need to be able to confirm that they have power and the ability to care for themselves."

With all the problems that the district is juggling to reopen, parents like Donato said they understand the circumstances. 

“Sometimes you forget how intricate everybody’s job may be," Donato said. "It’s not as simple as it may look.”

In the meantime, Donato said she is working with her son to make sure he doesn’t fall behind on his studies. 

“I try to have him read some books until we get an update on when school starts just to keep that mind going," she said. “I feel like we all need to be there for each other. Be supportive of one another. Be patient.”

Patience is just what district leaders are asking as they work through the coming days. 

“We are working through this as quickly as we can trying to do the right thing and make it safe for everybody,” Asplen said. 

He has also been in contact with other districts who are going through or have gone through this in the past. They are looking at other options such as going hybrid, merging schools or having double sessions.

The school board will have an emergency meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday to discuss solutions.

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