Lee County schools suffer damage after shelter use, prepare for class Monday

SOUTH FORT MYERS, Fla.  Many Lee County schools were used as shelters during Hurricane Irma. Crews worked around the clock to get the schools ready before class starts on Monday.

Thousands packed the hallways at South Fort Myers High School as Irma hit Southwest Florida. But the storm wasn’t the only thing that left damage.

South Fort Myers Principal Ed Matthews said “If you put 4,000 people and 500 animals in a building, there’s gonna be a smell. However the county stepped up immediately.”

Days of cleaning followed.

“There were some challenges in some places, but we knew that would happen.” Ken Dobson, Director of Safety and Security for Lee County Schools added, regarding the cleanup efforts.

MOREHelp for pets affected by Irma available in Lehigh Acres

Rooms like this auto shop that served as a bedroom during the storm, are largely back to normal and ready to welcome students on Monday.

The staff here at South Fort Myers High School stepped up and made everybody feel safe and secure. Matthews says it was the volunteer work of school employees.

Band director Staci Hatmaker used her training as a paramedic to care for disabled evacuees. “I had cancer patients in here, people on oxygen, cerebral palsy–most of those type of people I kept in here. And ran it kind of like a makeshift hospital sort of thing to make sure everyone was taken care of.” Hatmaker said.

Cafeteria Manager Dori Edwards worked throughout the storm to feed evacuees, saying “The line was all the way down the hall, 4,000 people in one hour but it worked.”

A tall order for a school to manage, but Principal Matthews says it was all worth it.

We’re here not only to provide an education, but we’re here to be a foundation for the community.

MORECollier high school used as shelter works to cleanup after storm

Reporter:Oliver Redsten
Writer:Derrick Shaw