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Lee schools clean up, open after Irma

September 27, 2017
By MEGHAN McCOY (mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com) , North Fort Myers Neighbor

The largest evacuation and sheltering operation in Lee County's history took place during Hurricane Irma with more than 32,000 people and 1,700 pets seeking shelter at 16 locations at the peak of the storm.

Most took refuge in Lee County schools with five exceptions; Germain Arena, Alico Arena, Veterans Park Recreation Center, North Fort Myers Rec Center and Estero Rec Center, which also opened as hurricane shelters.

The effort to get the schools restored to pre-Irma condition was prioritized in advance of Monday's reopening.

School Board Chair Mary Fischer compared the cleanup effort to that following an event such as a concert at the Lee Civic Center.

"If you go to the Civic Center and go to a concert, there is a mess afterwards. People have different habits," Fischer said. "There are always people on their own agenda and we deal with that."

Approximately 22,000 people and more than 1,000 pets used a district school as their shelter.

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She said there was an absolute necessity to clean the schools once everyone left but took a positive approach to the post-storm need.

"We clean up every day when we have 2,000 kids," Fischer said.

According to Lee County communication specialist Timothy Engstrom, contracts with cleaning companies were put in place and, as of last, Tuesday, cleanup was already under way.

Fact Box

To make a donation

The District is accepting the following donations at the Lee County Public Education Center at 2855 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL 33966:

* Cases of water

* Non-perishable food items

* Gift cards for Publix, Walmart, Target

* Gift cards for gas

* Underwear and socks, adult and kid sizes (new only please)

* Baby diapers

* Baby wipes

* Toiletry items (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc.)

* Feminine hygiene products

* Insect repellent

* Shoes, adult and kid sizes (new or gently used)

* Shorts and shirts, adult and kid sizes (new or gently used)

* Laundry detergent

Monetary donations may be made via the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools website: thefoundationforleecountypublicschools.networkforgood.com/projects/36335-hurricane-irma-school-relief-fund

"Buildings used as shelters will be returned to their pre-storm condition as soon as possible," he wrote in an email last week.

Fischer said they had people at the schools doing a deep cleaning, so they would be ready for reopening.

Schools re-opened Monday as planned.

Meanwhile, efforts are also under way to help teachers who may need to replenish supplies and to help families in need.

First, the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools created a Hurricane Irma School Relief Fund to help teachers restore their classrooms, so their focus could remain on student learning. Cash donations are being sought to purchase and replenish much needed supplies benefiting students, teachers and classrooms. One hundred percent of the funds will go towards the relief efforts.

Lee County School District also accepting donations for students and staff in need

"Many of our Lee County School District families have been displaced and are in need," a release issued by the district Monday states.

In response, the District is accepting the following donations at the Lee County Public Education Center at 2855 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers, FL 33966:

n Cases of water

n Non-perishable food items

n Gift cards for Publix, Walmart, Target

n Gift cards for gas

n Underwear and socks, adult and kid sizes (new only please)

n Baby diapers

n Baby wipes

n Toiletry items (shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc.)

n Feminine hygiene products

n Insect repellent

n Shoes, adult and kid sizes (new or gently used)

n Shorts and shirts, adult and kid sizes (new or gently used)

n Laundry detergent

Monetary donations may be made via the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools website: thefoundationforleecountypublicschools.networkforgood.com/projects/36335-hurricane-irma-school-relief-fund

"Our thoughts are with the families affected by Hurricane Irma," the release states. "We are grateful to be able to help so many in our community at this difficult time."

The overall response she heard from community members who sought a school as refuge was how well organized the facility was and how safe they felt while there, Fischer said.The lovely emails were "complimentary" on how well "they took care of people and organized and managed the situation."

"Our facilities are always in good repair and hopefully welcoming," Fischer said. "The piece that really made me feel so proud was our staff members that worked at those schools volunteered their time and stayed and helped those in need of assistance and kept things going."

With the School District housing anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 students a day at a each school, she said they are used to keeping things moving smoothly, which worked in their advantage when the schools were turned into shelters.

"This is something that we do every day," Fischer said. "I was very proud that our senior citizens and people were very impressed with the way that it was handled and run."

The general population shelters were managed by the Red Cross, while the special needs shelters were managed by the Florida Department of Health.

The last shelter was scheduled to close last Wednesday.

Fischer also said there was a lot to be grateful for.

"I am very thankful that the community came together in the face of a disaster," she said, adding that she thinks a lot of people's perspectives changed on what we take for granted. "Hopefully this will serve to strengthen our community and increase our partnership."

 
 

 

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