Hearts go out to those suffering from Hurricane Ian. It’s hard to fathom what Florida residents and those from hurricane-affected areas are experiencing. How are the children? How are they handling the disruption? Will public schools change?
As of Tuesday morning, October 4, 2022, according to the Florida Department of Education, the following K-12 school districts were scheduled to reopen:
- Collier County Schools
- Volusia County Schools
The following K-12 school districts are closed until further notice:
- Charlotte County Schools
- DeSoto County Schools
- Hardee County Schools
- Lee County Schools
- Sarasota County Schools
Here is the latest (as of Oct. 11) for hard-hit Sarasota public schools Some 12,000 Sarasota students must wait another week for schools to reopen after Hurricane Ian.
Questions always surround how the federal, state and local governments will support public schools in hurricane-affected areas.
Florida has been hostile towards public education, supportive of charter schools and all virtual learning. They have supported school choice options for private and parochial schools.
After Hurricane Katrina, privatization enthusiasts descended upon New Orleans to transform public schools into charter schools, which never lived up to the hype, especially for children with disabilities.
Disaster capitalism, underscored by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, showed how schools could change after a hurricane.
Within nineteen months, with most of the city’s poor residents still in exile, New Orleans’ public school system had been almost completely replaced by privately run charter schools. (p. 6).
Educators raised school privatization concerns after Hurricane Harvey. The people of Texas fought against the privatization of public schools eight months after the hurricane hit, rejecting the conversion of schools into charters for poor black and brown children.
Thus far, there seems to be no discussion of privatizing the schools affected by Hurricane Ian. Districts sustained building damage, and some Florida schools are said to be closed indefinitely.
The Florida Phoenix reported that with schools closed to damage in five school districts, 168,000 schoolchildren were left without a school. And they had no further notice for the schools to reopen. The opening of Lee County Schools seemed uncertain at first.
Lee County School Superintendent Christopher Bernier, newish to the area, stated that schools are either damaged, without water, need to rebuild, or are still providing shelter to the community. He says public schools there will likely open on October 17. So far, he acknowledges that children need access to public schools for support; Lee County has a foundation for schools.
Polk County in central Florida provides a website. They’re notifying parents and the community that they’re attempting to open schools but that it’s difficult due to power outages. They want to get children back in school, especially keeping them away from storm debris.
Brevard, Flagler, Lake, Marion, Seminole, and Sumter are Florida districts that were to start back to school Monday, October 3.
An additional concern is the learning loss message that follows students. In one of the first reports after the storm, on September 30, NPR reported More than 2.5 million Florida students missed school during Hurricane Ian. They seem to ignore the logistical problems facing children affected by the storm, the trauma students might be going through after losing their homes, even if they got to safer ground.
Students who lived through such a catastrophe don’t need to hear about learning loss which produces added pressure and anxiety. The real question with Hurricane Ian should be, how are the children doing, not have they fallen behind in school? And how will their schools open? Will they be like before? How will they be different?
Students need educators and policymakers committed to helping them return to their public schools with minimal disruption, focused on support and learning in ways that help.
Hopefully, policymakers won’t use the aftermath of Hurricane Ian to permanently close public schools, converting them into charters or placing students online for all of their instruction.
Available reports about Hurricane Ian and how to help children through hard may help parents talk to children and better understand what they’re going through during this challenging time.
The Tampa Bay Times, How to talk to children about Hurricane Ian, might help students process what they’ve been through. Even if children and teens aren’t personally affected by the hurricane, it’s frightening to see images and hear the news about the storm.
Helping children learn that they can regroup and develop stronger within their public school is a more positive message than obsessing over learning loss.
Children can be resilient with love and support. Here’s hoping students who survived Hurricane Ian will be lifted to a stronger place with help from caring parents, teachers, and the community.
Americans must rally and unite to help children weather the storms in their lives.
Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Picador.
- Child Trends Provides a list of resources concerning childhood trauma after a hurricane.
- National Traumatic Childhood Stress Center Resources for families experiencing a hurricane.
- USA.Gov General information.
- Hurricane Ian FEMA Information about applying for assistance.
- Save the Children Claim to be providing needed supplies to children in the wake of the hurricane.