December 5, 2022

Press Release

Classes resumed at all higher education institutions in Florida

| 10/12/2022

Tallahassee, Fla., October 12, 2022 — All of Florida’s 40 public higher education institutions have resumed classes following closures from Hurricane Ian. This achievement, reached just two weeks after the storm’s landfall, was made possible by collaborative efforts of state colleges, universities, state agencies and local communities to provide timely assistance to the hardest hit counties. Efforts to reopen higher education institutions included Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. organizing Florida College System presidents into a hurricane response strike group to facilitate quick responses to emergency needs, and dozens of university and college students volunteering to help reopen their schools. University students from across the state also volunteered to help clean up impacted areas, including the Florida Atlantic University's softball team, which traveled to Fort Myers to assist.

“Florida state colleges have stepped up to help their students, communities and neighboring institutions as our state recovers from Hurricane Ian,” said Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “I am pleased to see all 40 state colleges and universities in Florida’s top-ranked higher education system now resume classes for all students and faculty.”

“In the wake of Hurricane Ian's impact on Florida, the State University System has worked closely together to provide support to our impacted campuses and surrounding communities during this difficult time,” said Marshall M. Criser III, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. “I am proud that before, during, and after the storm, our universities have leaned in to ensure that our students and employees received the necessary resources based on their individual and collective needs.”

The Florida Department of Education, Florida College System, State University System of Florida and member institutions have worked tirelessly to meet the needs of students, staff, and partner institutions. Some examples include:

Florida Department of Education

  • Commissioner Diaz organized Florida College System presidents into a hurricane response strike group that facilitated quick responses to emergency needs in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The group continues to assist with long-term needs aimed at restoring higher education institutions to their full operating ability.
  • This week, the Department of Education joined a team of presidents, students and staff from five state colleges in the north and central Florida regions to collect and deliver essential supplies, while state colleges across west and south Florida did the same for the state colleges most affected in Southwest Florida.
  • The Florida College System Foundation has provided relief dollars and gas cards to assist students’ return to the classroom at multiple state colleges in Southwest Florida.

Florida College System

The Florida College System is the primary access point to higher education for Floridians, including recent high school graduates and returning adult students. The 28 member colleges of the Florida College System respond quickly and efficiently to meet the demand of employers by aligning certificate and degree programs with regional workforce needs. Given the importance of these community postsecondary schools, numerous recovery initiatives have supported campus reopenings across Southwest Florida:

Daytona State College

  • Opened computer labs for students in need of internet access.
  • Announced financial grants for students severely impacted by the storm.

Florida SouthWestern State College

  • Holding disaster relief supply distribution for students, faculty, staff and their immediate families.
  • IT department helped students affected by Hurricane Ian by offering loaner laptops and webcams.
  • Established local wireless access point in the parking lot for those who did not have internet access at home.

Miami-Dade College

  • Sent supplies to State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota students and staff.
  • Provided snacks, water and dinner to Florida SouthWestern State College staff that were on duty the night after the storm. 

Palm Beach State College

  • Held product drives with Miami-Dade College that provided truckloads of personal items and food, including diapers and formula to Florida SouthWestern State College.
  • Donated laptops to assist Florida SouthWestern State College students returning to the classroom.

Polk State College

  • Joined St. Petersburg College to supply laptops to impacted students at Valencia College.

South Florida State College

  • Campus facilities served as special need shelters for residents that evacuated from Hurricane Ian.

St. Petersburg College

  • Provided emergency supplies to State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota and Florida SouthWestern State College. 

State College of Florida

  • Offering students resources, such as computers, household items, personal hygiene goods or food.

Valencia College

  • Implemented a multi-day, free food service for students on all Valencia College campuses, which served over 3,000 students in three days.

Santa Fe College, Florida Gateway College, Lake Sumter State College and College of Central Florida

  • Teamed up to host a supply drive, with pallets of supplies including bottled water, non-perishable food items, toiletries, cleaning supplies and pet food donated to Southwest Florida.

State University System of Florida

The State University System of Florida includes 12 public universities, and Hurricane Ian support efforts have extended statewide, including:

Florida Atlantic University

  • Provided resource support to the Florida Gulf Coast University Emergency Operation Center's emergency management team by assessing and evaluating current conditions and providing recommendations and strategies.
  • Florida Atlantic University's softball team traveled to Fort Myers to lend a hand in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts after the storm. The team removed tree branches, flood water, wreckage, and other debris.

Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Florida Gulf Coast University launched the Eagles in Need relief fund to help students, faculty and staff. One-time emergency awards remain available to current full- and part-time students, faculty and staff who need immediate help.
  • To help address the adverse impacts Hurricane Ian and its aftermath has had on employees, the university launched the Hurricane Ian Disaster Leave Program. The disaster leave-sharing plan allows staff to deposit personally accrued annual leave to a university-sponsored leave bank, which distributes annual leave to colleagues who need it most.
  • Officials launched the Florida Gulf Coast University Storm Recovery Call Center for students, faculty and staff to check in with the university. 

Florida State University

  • Center for Disaster Risk Policy drone team, including four students, have supported the state's urban search and rescue efforts. The drones provide accurate, near real-time data in lieu of maps that are typically weeks and months old.
  • Florida State University Facilities Department and Police Department sent a caravan of personnel and equipment to assist the Ringling campus in Sarasota with cleanup, assessment and recovery.
  • Provided staging space in Tallahassee for first responders and electric crews en route to deployment in South Florida.

University of Central Florida

  • All students who have reached out to the university will receive a call from a University of Central Florida staff member to discuss available resources.
  • The university has also set up an Academic Coaching Hotline to discuss options regarding academic challenges students may be facing as a result of the storm.

University of Florida

  • The University of Florida Veterinary Emergency Treatment Service team, made up of veterinarians, emergency responders and students from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, mobilized to Southwest Florida to help more than 300 animals with emergency care using triage, gas anesthesia and basic surgery.
  • The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Science Extension agents are trained to monitor, prepare, respond and assist in recovery and were called upon to serve in their county's emergency operations centers. At least 40 extension agents served in county disaster call centers and emergency operations centers.

University of North Florida

  • The Florida Small Business Development Center at the University of North Florida is offering support to small businesses impacted by the hurricane. Disaster recovery specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and navigate other post-disaster challenges.

University of South Florida

  • The Hillsborough County Office of Emergency Management activated the University of South Florida's Community Emergency Response Team to prepare and assist emergency shelters throughout the county. The team, which included 53 student volunteers, served nearly 1,000 hours before, during and after the hurricane. They helped set up and manage 16 locations — general population shelters, special needs shelters and emergency pet shelters — across the county.

In addition, eight universities are serving as Business Recovery Centers in partnership with the Florida Small Business Development Center. The list includes UNF, UCF, USF, FGCU, FAU, FIU, UWF, and FAMU. The Small Business Development Center Network is working alongside the Small Business Association and the State of Florida to establish Business Recovery Centers in adversely impacted communities for small business owners to receive on-site assistance with disaster loans and other post-disaster challenges. Federal disaster assistance is also available for small businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian. See: https://floridasbdc.org/disaster/loan-assistance/.

The Florida Department of Education continues to monitor state college and state university needs and promote broader educational recovery efforts in Hurricane Ian-affected areas.

Updated information can be accessed at the department’s “Hurricane Ian Information” webpage: Hurricane Ian Information.

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