Assessing Ian’s damage, when schools might reopen, student loan forgiveness and more

Assessing the damage: At least 17 people have died and more than 2.7 million Floridians are still without power after Hurricane Ian made landfall north of Fort Myers on Wednesday as a Category 4 storm and then swept through the center of the state before exiting Thursday near Cocoa. Keven Behen, 60, who rode out the storm in Fort Myers Beach, said, “The island is like somebody took an atom bomb and dropped it.” Gov. Ron DeSantis, who took an aerial tour of the destruction Thursday, declared that Sanibel Island had been “hit with really biblical storm surge.” The damage will run into the billions to repair schools, roads, bridges and more, said federal and state officials, and President Joe Biden said Ian could become the “deadliest hurricane in Florida history.” The death toll is expected to rise; Lee Sheriff Carmine Marceno said it could end up in the hundreds. News Service of Florida. Associated Press. Miami Herald. Tampa Bay Times. Tallahassee Democrat. Fort Myers News-Press. Charlotte Sun. Daytona Beach News-Journal. Sun-Sentinel. WLRN. WPLGPolitico Florida. Those who chose a public shelter in the Tampa Bay area instead of evacuating or staying at home gave good grades to the schools where they stayed. Tampa Bay Times.

School reopenings: Now that Ian has left the state, when will schools reopen? That will depend on whether they were damaged by the storm and how much cleaning will be required at those that were used as hurricane shelters. “There’s a lot of work that goes in once the residents go home,” said principal Christina Stanley of Zephyrhills High School in Pasco County. Some schools have already announced their plans, but most have not. Those that have are listed below by in the county-by-county roundup. More than 2.5 million students have missed school this week. Tampa Bay Times. Here’s the state’s list of K-12 and college and university closings. Most remain closed today. Florida Department of Education.

South Florida: The Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe school districts are reopening today, their superintendents announced Thursday. Monroe has been closed since Tuesday, Miami-Dade and Broward since Wednesday. Miami Herald. Palm Beach Post. Key West Citizen. WSVN. American Heritage Schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties have the most National Merit Scholar Semifinalists in the state. The Broward campus had 55 high school seniors chosen, and the Palm Beach campus 31. Sun-Sentinel.

Tampa Bay area: Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas county schools will reopen Monday, school officials said Thursday. They said the limited impact Ian had on the area made the turnaround from shelter to school much quicker. “We started cleaning today,” Pasco Superintendent Kurt Browning said early Thursday. “With the shelters empty, we think we will have time.” Tampa Bay Times.

Palm Beach: I Will Soar, an award-winning documentary about the Atlantic High School football team’s remarkable rise to a 2020 state championship, is being released worldwide in January. “The gist of this documentary is just how, in an inner city school that lives 80 percent below poverty, if you build a family and get the support of the community, the success that you can have,” said director Jane Swanko. “This is not one person. This is a store that has come together to take care of these kids.” Sun-Sentinel.

Duval: School officials will wait until Saturday to decide if schools will reopen Monday. “On Friday, we will assess any damage to schools, close down shelter operations (once we confirm with the city that shelters are closed), and begin clean-up on our 155 campuses,” the district announced in a statement Thursday. “We will announce a final decision regarding Monday school and activities Saturday morning.” Florida Times-Union. WJXT.

Lee, Collier: Schools close to where Ian made landfall, in Lee and Collier counties, announced Thursday that they would be closed today. School officials said they would decide Sunday whether classes will be held Monday. Fort Myers News-Press.

Manatee, Sarasota: Manatee and Sarasota schools are closed today but are expected to reopen Monday although a decision may not be finalized until the weekend. “The 17 schools that served as shelters during Hurricane Ian need to be thoroughly cleaned and prepared for instruction to resume,” Manatee officials announced on Facebook. Bradenton Herald. Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Marion: Schools are closed again today, but district officials said they will reopen Monday. WGFL.

St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River: Schools are reopening today in Martin County, but remain closed in St. Lucie and Indian River counties because many are without power, according to district officials. Students were out of school Wednesday and Thursday. TCPalm.

Citrus: Schools reopen Monday, district officials announced Thursday. They’ve been closed since Wednesday for the storm. Citrus County Chronicle.

Okeechobee: Schools remain closed today, and district officials said they will make a decision later about reopening Monday. WPTV.

Colleges and universities: The Citrus County Hospital Board has pledged to give the College of Central Florida $10.3 million in grants to help the school qualify for a matching grant from the state. The money would be used to expand the school’s nursing program to attract more students and help graduates find jobs in the county. Any funding not matched by the state would be returned to the hospital board. Citrus County Chronicle.

Around the nation: Six Republican-led states are suing the Biden administration over its plan to forgive billions of dollars in student loans for tens of millions of U.S. college students. Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and South Carolina are contending that President Biden doesn’t have the legal authority to override the U.S. Department of Education’s legal obligation to collect the loan repayments. Associated Press. The Biden administration has changed course and is excluding millions of students from the federal student debt loan forgiveness program. No longer eligible are students whose federal student loans are owned by private companiues. NPR. Politico. K-12 Dive. The Environmental Protection Agency said it is doubling the amount of money it will make available to school districts to buy electric buses. About $500 million was made available in May, and the EPA is now bumping that to $965 million. Another $1 billion is being made available in the budget year that begins Saturday. Associated Press.