SARASOTA — The Sarasota County School District has received a $1 million grant from the Florida Division of Emergency Management to make improvements to schools that serve as hurricane evacuation centers.

The grant will also help add Taylor Ranch Elementary in Venice as a mid-county shelter location, according to a district news release. Throughout 2020, Taylor Ranch, along with North Port High School, Fruitville Elementary and Gulf Gate Elementary in Sarasota will undergo improvements to ensure the safety of evacuees during a hurricane.

“Ensuring Floridians are safe during disasters is our No. 1 priority,” Jared Moskowitz, director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, said in a statement. “I’m proud that we’ve been able to administer this grant to Sarasota County Schools to provide residents with a safe place to go during hurricanes. I look forward to continue working with local governments to find real solutions that create resilient communities across Florida.”

Upgrades to the school sites will include wind impact protection for all windows, mesh impact barriers in exterior areas, including stairways and outdoor restrooms, and improved drainage systems, the release said.

The district will also retrofit Taylor Ranch Elementary, making it the 12th general population hurricane evacuation center in the county. This location will better serve mid-county residents, according to the release.

The upgrades to the elementary school will add space for nearly 1,280 evacuees in the event of a high-impact hurricane.

The district will bid out the improvement project to contractors and engineering firms before starting upgrades at the school sites, the release said. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2020.

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