by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The Sanibel Sea School sits on the east end of the island and its two buildings suffered significant flooding from Hurricane Ian, the powerful category four storm which struck on Wednesday, Sept. 28.
Youth Education Director Shannon Rivard said the buildings had evidence of three to four feet of storm surge. “The bit of good news is the roofs and structures held up during the storm,” she said. But the inside was a different matter.
The Sanibel Sea School’s Kennedy building held up during Hurricane Ian, but was damaged by a three to four feet storm surge. Photos provided
The wooden floors buckled inside the small Kennedy building, which sits behind the main building, and the wood paneling “crumbled,” Rivard explained. The school’s safety equipment, microscopes, and program supplies inside the buildings were mostly destroyed.
But Rivard said the loss of photos, archives and art projects by campers throughout the years was sad for the staff. “We lost some very sentimental items, but it was important to us to save as many art projects by campers as we could,” she said.
The staff want the buildings to be recognizable when campers return. “We want it to feel like the Sea School again,” said Rivard. “We’ve had some kids with us from the age of 4 to 18 and we want them to be able to say ‘I made that.’” So, the salvaged art projects and photos will grace the walls again.
Ian turned the island’s green vegetation brown and uprooted numerous trees, including the large “handprint tree” at the Sea School. It’s another sentimental loss for them.
The storm surge also took out the school’s fleet of vans with evidence of water coming up to the seats. The “Ripple Effect” vessel was off its trailer and the brand new mobile sea lab was found a distance away from where it was parked before the storm. “It didn’t fare well,” said Rivard.
One week after Hurricane Ian made landfall on the island, the focus was on staff safety and finding housing for those who were displaced. Now, they are focused on clearing out the debris, vegetation and removing moldy items. They are sorting through items to save and store until the school can reopen.
The Sea School remains closed for regular programming and Rivard said they are unsure when programs will resume. “It will likely be sometime before that happens,” she said. “But it doesn’t mean we can’t pivot in the meantime.”
Details are in progress for resuming after-school and homeschool programs, as well as classroom visits to their landlocked partners. “We are coming up with ideas and looking at alternate spaces,” said Rivard. “I’m confident in our team to come up with solutions and be creative.”
However, the day programs, beach walks, winter camp and resort programs are postponed. Details on the return of those programs will be announced on the school’s social media, as well as on its website, where donations can be made, too.
While the Sea School team cleans up the campus and gets creative with post-storm solutions, everyone should take time to be outdoors. “Spending time in nature is healthy in these stressful times,” said Rivard.