Though schools in northern Sarasota County reopened on Monday after Hurricane Ian, work remains in the southern portion of the county before classes can resume.
Monday, 35 schools in the district reopened and no more school buildings are being used as evacuation centers, paving the way for the remainder to open on Oct. 17. Superintendent Brennan Asplen said is was as close to business as usual as could be expected.
"It was a very, very smooth opening today as far as operations were concerned and getting everyone back into classes," Asplen said of reports he received from elementary and secondary school directors. "Schools are reporting that they are fully staffed. Attendance appears to be very close to normal."
Asplen reported minimal disruption in transportation for the first day back and every student was fed typical meals during the day. Still, though, even schools that reopened are not necessarily back to normal.
"Our work is not done in north county," Chief Operations Officer Jody Dumas said. "We still have debris on campuses piled everywhere, so it will take us several months to actually get campuses back to what they originally looked like."
District staff is discussing the potential for make-up days, though School Board members would have the final say.
Chief Academic Officer Chris Renouf said schools in hardest-hit North Port and Englewood have reached out to families to assess and provide resources to keep students engaged during the transition back into classrooms.
"A high percentage of students and staff have returned, are safe and are reconnecting with one another as they re-engage in the learning process," he said. "Students were thrilled to be back on campus, re-acclimating to the classroom and instructional routines that they thrive within."
Customized learning plans have been created in order to properly address the needs of students whether in elementary, middle or high school, Renouf said.
"We fully realize that this is a time of transition, rebuilding and recovery and remain fully committed to supporting our schools, the staff, the students and families whatever it takes," he said.
In order to fully support students, Executive Director of Student Services Debra Giacolone said that additional school counselors, nurses, social workers, school psychologists and community partners are ready to help. Staff has been working to aid families applying for funds available at the state and federal level.
"Our number one priority is the safety of our students, and that includes the emotional safety and the physical safety of both our students and our staff," she said.
High school athletic teams began practice Friday, Oct. 7. Depending on the status of bleacher repair, home games may need to be played at alternate sites.
Additional updates can be found on the district's website and on each of their social media channels.