LEE COUNTY, Fla. – Speaking from San Carlos Park Elementary School in Lee County, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday announced $2 million from the Florida Disaster Fund would be disbursed to education foundations in six South Florida counties hit hard by Hurricane Ian.
“These donations will help each district’s teachers — particularly those who are displaced — and their different needs right now ... there’s a whole host of things that need to be done. So this will provide some help in that regard and we look forward to being able to do more for educators in the days and weeks to come,” DeSantis said.
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The counties awarded, and their shares of the $2 million, were as follows:
- Lee County - $500,000
- Charlotte, Sarasota and Collier counties- $350,000 each
- DeSoto and Hardee counties- $225,000 each
The school DeSantis visited normally serves fewer than 700 students with 62 teachers, he said, but has since assumed the role of a host school in Ian’s wake. At the conference, the governor described a class size now of around 1,000 students and 100 teachers at the elementary school, calling it a monumental undertaking.
Jacob Oliva, a senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, also spoke at the event.
“As we’re removing obstacles to get water out of buildings get power restored, we started hearing stories about principals connecting with families who have lost everything and one of the challenges that they were seeing to reopen and welcome students back is they need those high quality teachers, their support staff, their leaders to be able to come into the classroom, and they’re navigating through some challenges personally. So we were able to connect with our direct support organizations, our education foundations, and start identifying what are those opportunities that we can help create, or what are the things we can do to get these families’ lives restored,” Oliva said.
The governor said $7 million had been disbursed from the Florida Disaster Fund to date, with all-time donations nearing $50 million. Florida’s first lady Casey DeSantis, who spearheaded the funding initiative, is expected to award more money from it soon, the governor said.
To donate to the fund, go to the Volunteer Florida website.
Jennifer Vigne, president and CEO of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County and membership chair of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations, treated the awards Friday as a much-needed and bittersweet honor.
“We want to acknowledge first of all that as a membership organization we raise annually $83 million each year to support nearly 98% of the students across the state of Florida, and it is an incredible honor of the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations to work with educators across our state. This moment today, though, we’ve also learned the paradoxical ability that storms have on us, and that is the ability to both cause great devastation but also have the great capacity to unite our community, and it is through that vein that we’re working to unite our community,” Vigne said.
Watch the news conference in the video player below.
DeSantis on Thursday announced that he signed an executive order to extend property tax deadlines in communities hit hard by Hurricane Ian and said he intended to call a special session to allow property owners to receive rebates on their property taxes for homes and businesses destroyed by the storm.
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