Some residents across Sarasota County are inching closer to life before Hurricane Ian, as access to power and water has returned in parts of the area.
However, other locals, especially in North Port and coastal areas of Venice and Sarasota, are still recovering from the impact of last week’s relentless storm.
Addressing those areas of concern had been the priority before Sarasota County Schools could decide on a plan to return to athletics, county athletic director James Slaton said.
However, once Sarasota County Schools announced a phased plan for returning to the classroom on Tuesday afternoon, it opened the door for returning to athletics. Slaton said determinations for a plan of return would likely be made some time today.
Venice High is scheduled to re-open for school on Monday, Oct. 10, with North Port slated for Monday, Oct. 17. Slaton said practices in the county could resume as early as this weekend.
“(We are) still working through processing all the damage,” Slaton wrote in a text message Monday morning. “(It) looks like about 40% still without water or power. That’s gonna have to get better. There’s a lot of damage to many of the campuses, so that’s got to be worked out as well.
“…They’re in the process now of combing through each school with a fine tooth. I do know there has been damage to schools in Sarasota, Venice and North Port.”
Though there is no definite plan to return to athletics for Sarasota County just yet, one Manatee County coach by Monday afternoon was already announcing the return of football.
“The Varsity game for @ManateeFB vs. Lakewood Ranch will be made up this Friday, 10/7 at Manatee. Kickoff will be 7:00,” Hurricanes assistant coach Brian McCloy wrote in a post on Twitter.
Returning to the regular season won’t happen as swiftly for the rest of southwest Florida, even if practices can resume soon.
At Venice High, most damage occurred at the football stadium, with snapped goal posts and play clocks, bent fencing, water damage to the press box and destroyed signs. The roof of the school’s weight room appeared to take the worst damage, with chunks of it ripped away. Indians coach John Peacock is tackling the issue head-on, announcing on Twitter that team members past and present are invited for a clean-up of Powell-Davis Stadium, beginning at 9 a.m. Wednesday.
At North Port, flooding in the area was such a concern that governor Ron DeSantis made a visit to the city this past Sunday.
Along with several impassable roadways, North Port High also sustained some damage to its athletic facilities, including a missing equipment shed (along with the equipment inside of it), bent goal posts and countless debris littering the field, according to Bobcats coach Garon Belser.
Charlotte, Port Charlotte, Lemon Bay and DeSoto County all sustained various amounts of damage to their football facilities. According to Charlotte County Schools, any return is on indefinite hold, though employees are expected to receive a two-day notice of return.
As student athletes focus on getting back to life before Hurricane Ian, the Florida High School Athletic Association is still making determinations as to how the season will be altered due to missed contests and fallout from the hurricane.
“We’ve been in communication with school personnel and county administrators in each of the affected areas,” FHSAA public relations specialist Ryan Harrison wrote in an email on Monday. “Currently, we are still gathering information and considering the needs of our member schools. We are actively working to assist in any manner possible. As we assess facilities and communities the latest updates will be available on FHSAA.com.”