FORT MYERS, Fla. — Teachers and children from a preschool in the same plaza as the nightclub where two were killed and 18 were injured this week made a touching contribution to a growing memorial at the site, but the shooting has hurt the school’s enrollment.
A poster with handprints from the children that reads “Save Lee County” now hangs in front of Club Blu, where flowers, balloons and other mementos serve as a reminder of the lives lost. Another of several paper signs from the school reads, “We love you Rudolph,” a show of support for Club Blu owner Rudolph Samuels.
Teacher Chantle Whaley said Small Town Child Development Center, which couldn’t open Monday because of the crime scene set up in the hours after the shooting, wanted to send a message that could prevent further violence.
“We’re praying that when people ride by or walk by, it could change one mind,” Whaley said. If one mind is changed, then that’s better than none.”
Some parents have withdrawn their children from the school, forcing some teachers off the job, Whaley said. Normally, 50 to 60 children show up, but the first day the school opened after the shooting, only about 20 did, according to Whaley.
The school’s future is uncertain, she said. The key is assuring parents that it’s a safe place for their children.
“If their mind is not eased, they’re not going to bring their kids,” Whaley said. “They love their kids.”