Pinellas school district sending skilled workers, supplies to Lee County to help repair damaged schools

Hurricane Ian left parts of southwest Florida decimated, and caused major damage to many schools in the area.

Schools are closed until further notice in Lee County due to the destruction, so a group of Pinellas County school staff is stepping in to help — bringing much-needed supplies and skilled workers as well.

The team of two dozen district employees left from Largo early Thursday morning with a caravan full of supplies. Their goal is to help Lee County begin the long process of rebuilding its schools so they can get students back in their classrooms.

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Among the employees were 18 skilled workers who specialize in fields including electrical work, plumbing and air conditioning. Pinellas also sent roofing and carpentry experts wo can help make repairs at schools with more moderate damage.

Pinellas schools said the workers will be split up into three different groups, each assigned to a different elementary school in need of repairs.

Meanwhile, their caravan included different utility vehicles like a freezer truck, a dump truck, a bucket truck, and a fuel truck — since they said they didn't know what they would encounter once they arrived. They also brought with them 1,500 meals for people in need.

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"It feels good, and we've done this before in the past. We helped with Charlie, and we helped Collier County after Irma," said Clint Herbic, associate superintendent of operational services for Pinellas schools. "It's one of those things that, you know, we're helping our neighbors with a favor. And it's a favor we hope never has to be returned."

As Lee County continues to assess the damage at their schools, they don't have a date as to when they will reopen on their calendar. They say over half of their schools are in need of repairs, with 14% of their buildings suffering extensive damage. Some schools will have to be completely torn down and rebuilt.