FORT MYERS BEACH
Parents are passionate about keeping Fort Myers Beach Elementary School on the island, and they plan to make the case at Tuesday night’s Lee County School Board meeting and beyond.
Hurricane Jan severely damaged the beloved school, but parents rallied with demands to preserve the school’s future. The Lee County School District has not given any specific answers, but the next school board meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss rebuilding Fort Myers Beach Elementary School after the storm.
“Our school is part of our community,” said parent John Koss. “This is not just an ordinary school. It’s really the heartbeat of our community, so we’re very committed to making sure that happens.”
Parents are frustrated that the school is still standing with boarded up windows, broken gates and litter strewn about. Nearly four months after Yang wreaked havoc on the school, there’s still no word on when parents will be able to send their children back to Fort Myers Beach Elementary School. Angry parents have already brought it up at school board meetings.
Fort Myers Beach Elementary School is the smallest school in the district and attendance is expected to drop, but that hasn’t stopped parents from demanding answers about when it will reopen or when the rebuilding process will officially begin. During the last meeting in December board members discussed four options:
- Option A: Students are transferred to neighboring schools while the school board considers reopening if enrollment increases.
- Option B: Portable devices are located at Fort Myers Beach Elementary School for classrooms, administrative offices and the cafeteria, with the hope that the historic building will be ready for use in the fall of 2023.
- Option C: A new multistory building is added to accommodate 150 K-5 students.
- Option D: The property is sold and students are transferred to neighboring schools.
At the time, the school board didn’t want to commit, but parents made it clear they wanted an option where the school would be rebuilt. Many comments were made at the December meeting:
“I know as a parent I need a temporary solution right now to get my child back to school with friends as soon as possible so I can get his life back to normal,” Koss said. .
“We all have smiles on our faces because we are brave and strong for the students,” Fort Myers Beach Elementary teacher Lori Zamniak said. “But deep down, and behind that smile, there is concern. I am worried that not only have they lost everything – their houses, their toys, their rooms, their classroom – that now they will also lose their school, and this is a great fear for each of us.”
“One of the reasons we came back to the beach and stayed on the beach is so our daughter could go to elementary school in Fort Myers Beach,” said Ashley Bowers, another local parent. “My husband grew up on the beach and went to school as well, and we really wanted her to get a quality education in a small community. And we knew she would get it there. And that’s why school is important for us, so that we can stay and live on the beach.”
Tuesday’s school board meeting is expected to begin at 6 p.m