Talking to children after Hurricane Ian

Reporter: Tiffany Rizzo Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Backpacks intended for students attending San Carlos Park Elementary because their own schools were ruined by Hurricane Ian. Credit: WINK news

Lee County’s public school students are all finally back to class; most are attending school in person, and some are learning virtually. It’s been many tough weeks since Hurricane Ian destroyed many of their homes and disrupted their lives. What do our kids need right now?

“We have no idea how we are going to go through this situation and be organized, because we have been dealing with a lot,” said Santiago Enriquez, a sixth grader at Lexington Middle who returned to school virtually on Friday.

On Thursday, he and his mother brought his little sister to San Carlos Park Elementary. She originally went to Fort Myers Beach Elementary School, which was damaged beyond repair by Ian.

“We got moved because everything got destroyed,” said Santiago’s mother, Erika Martinez. “I need a house, I need somebody to rent [to] me.”

With no place to live, they’re staying with friends, but that’s not a long-term solution.

“We need a place to live. We need somebody to rent to us because we have nowhere to go,” Santiago said.

Licensed clinical social worker Elizabeth Dosoretz spoke to WINK News about how parents and other adults can help struggling kids after the hurricane.

“Anything that we can do to allow kids to have a sense that not everything’s changed, not everything’s gone, there is predictability in the world, there is predictability… and there’s that comfort level,” Dosoretz said.

Dosoretz says whenever and wherever possible, try to create a sense of life as it was before Ian. For Santiago, that’s being with his friends at school, because with no home, his dad had to leave town to work.

“I have good friends very good friends,” Santiago said. “My dad had to leave to Daytona, that’s like four hours away. We miss him a lot, but he had to go so he can get a job so we can have a better life here.”

The relocation of students and teachers from the Sanibel School and Fort Myers Beach Elementary to San Carlos Park Elementary has helped a great deal, by keeping groups of friends and classrooms together.

“That was my only concern through all this; I just wanted my kids to be together with all their friends, their teachers and their school,” said Jude Sincoskie, parent of a former student at the Sanibel School.

“This is our new home,” said Sherri Skipper, literary coach for Fort Myers Beach Elementary. “The school has been welcoming and lovely. It feels very good to have someplace to go.”

Santiago says he’s worried about his younger sister, and he’s glad she didn’t have to leave the friends she had made at school.

“She doesn’t talk a lot,” Santiago said. “She’s kind of a quiet kid, and making her friends is kind of really special for her, so she was worried that her friends couldn’t be there.”

Dosoretz approves of the school district’s approach with San Carlos Park Elementary.

“The goal is to minimize that sense of, you know, chaos and catastrophic thinking, where everything’s different, everything’s a mess, we want to kind of say, ‘It does feel hard, but we’re going to help each other, put one foot in front of the other,'” Dosoretz said.

Parents are sacrificing much for their kids, but Dosoretz says it’s important that they make sure they’re taking care of themselves, too.

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