North Port schools prepare to reopen after Hurricane Ian

Crews are working hard to ensure North Port schools that were hit hard by Hurricane Ian are ready for students to return to class on Monday.

Fixing and cleaning has become a 24/7 job at Heron Creed Middle School in North Port.

"The kids want to be here, they say they’re ready. Even if they’ve been displaced they want to be back here at Heron Creek," said Kristine Lawrence.

Teachers came back for their first day, Thursday morning. They were greeted with hugs and support from staff and Principal Kristine Lawrence.

"We've gotten through other things and adversity so this is just one more that we will be here and however long it takes we are here together," she explained.

A plastic curtain separates dust from drywall being replaced in Elizabeth Perez-Ortiz's 8th grade language arts class.

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"We are blessed. They will fix that part so Monday when the kids come I expect to have everything ready," said Perez-Ortiz.

Twenty-five classrooms on campus had water damage. As hurricane Ian unleashed strong winds and heavy rain, a section of the school's roof was ripped off. That has not stopped teachers from getting back to work.

"I want to know how my students are doing. I want to know that they are fine. I know a lot of them have lost a lot of things at home. We have some supplies. We are still needing more," stated Perez-Oritz.  

Construction crews have been working across North Port and Englewood to reopen the following schools: 

  • Atwater Elementary
  • Cranberry Elementary
  • Englewood Elementary
  • Glenallen Elementary
  • Lamarque Elementary
  • Toledo Blade Elementary
  • Heron Creek Middle
  • Woodland Middle
  • North Port High School
  • Suncoast Technical College - North Port Campus

"We’ve been working here pretty long days 10-12-14 hour days, Saturday and Sundays to get it done," said Justin Williams.

Justin Williams is the vice-president of Jon F. Swift Construction. The company has been stationed at Heron Creek Middle School since the storm passed.

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"We know the impact to families of not being able to have their kids in school during times like this when there’s damage to clean up or when their house may not have power, we do understand the gravity of getting this done, get kids in school and back open," stated Williams.

It will take several more weeks or even months, until all repairs are finished at Heron Creek. Yet, that has not diminished the spirit of those here.

"We love you all, we miss you and we know you are here. We will get through this together because we are Heron Creek strong," said Lawrence.