On Tuesday afternoon, Fort Myers Beach Elementary School’s future is again on the table for the School District of Lee County.
Children who called the classrooms their second home have been attending other schools. Local families want to see their kids return, but multiple options remain for the next step.
It’s unknown if Tuesday will finally see the resolution of this issue, but parents and students on the island have remained vocal and passionate about the future of Fort Myers Elementary for the half-year since Hurricane Ian wrecked it.
In December, school board members discussed four options:
- Option A: Students get relocated to neighboring schools while the school board considers reopening if enrollment increases.
- Option B: Portables are placed at Fort Myers Beach Elementary for classrooms, administrative offices and a cafeteria in hopes the historic building is ready for use in the fall of 2023.
- Option C: A new elevated building is added to accommodate 150 K-5 students.
- Option D: The property is sold, and students are relocated to neighboring schools.
School board members have mentioned that enrollment is expected to drop.
Parents have not been shy about telling board members how they feel during previous school board meetings.
“I know that for me, as a parent right now, I need a temporary solution to come on board as soon as possible to get my child back in his school with his friends, so I can get his life back to normalcy,” said Fort Myers Beach Elementary School teacher Lori Zamniak. “We all have smiles on our faces because we’re brave and strong for the students. But deep down and behind that smile is worry. Worry that not only have they lost everything—their houses, their toys, their rooms, their classroom—that now they’re going to lose their school, too. And that is the big fear of every single one of us.”
Some say having to wait six months for a decision is heartbreaking.
“It’s what’s made us a community,” said local grandmother Jane Plummer. “Without our school, we’re hotels and rental properties… The beach school brings us together as a community. And it’s what’s going to bring families to the island.”
Six months after Ian, the school still sits empty with boarded-up windows, knocked-down gates and debris everywhere. Tuesday’s meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m.