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Big Bend and panhandle school openings and closures: what to know as Hurricane Ian nears.

A man in a blue polo shirt, flanked by officials, speaks at a podium
Alejandro Santiago
WFSU Public Media
Superintendent of Leon County Schools Rocky Hanna speaking on public schools remaining open.

Florida A&M and Florida State University have canceled classes for the rest of the week as Hurricane Ian moves further into the gulf and threatens the Gulf Coast of the state. Tallahassee Community College is continuing business as usual, as more area school districts announce closures.

4:10 p.m.: Additional school closures below.

  • Gulf County Schools will be closed Wednesday, September 28 and Thursday, September 29, 2022.
  • Jefferson County Schools will be closed Thursday, September 29 and Friday, September 30, 2022.
  • Madison County Schools will be closed Friday, September 30, 2022.
  • Taylor County Schools will be closed from Wednesday, September 28 through Friday, September 30, 2022.


Update 11:50 a.m.: Bay County schools have announced they will be closed Thursday. Wednesday was already scheduled to be a planning day. Bay Superintendent Bill Husfelt says the potential high rainfall, coupled with concerns for students' mental health following Hurricane Michael's destruction several years ago, are factors for the district's decision.

“Right now, it doesn’t look like we are going to get very much in the way of bad weather on Thursday or Friday,” Husfelt said in a statement. “But it’s possible and I know that possibility is very concerning for our residents and families since we have all been through so much.”

All extra-curricular activities planned for Thursday will also be canceled … this includes all practices, games and other sporting events.

Original post: Students in public school districts in the Big Bend are still in school so far this week; no closures have been announced for Leon and surrounding counties. Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna says the district is monitoring the storm’s approach. School districts often face a conundrum; if they close schools too early, parents will be upset. But many of those schools often double as emergency storm shelters as they’re built to higher construction codes.

"Our schools serve many functions…and during times of crisis our schools are called to become emergency shelters,” said Hanna. “As of right now, we’re well prepared. Even though we haven’t done this in a number of years, we’re prepared.”

The district has identified several high schools and some middle schools that will serve as shelter sites, if needed.

The decision to remain open is made on a day-to-day basis.

Storm projection models are continuing to move around, but the latest trend shows a rightward track.

"The entire Gulf Coast of Florida needs to remain prepared and vigilant as landfall is still possible from the Lee Island Coast to the Big Bend," said Florida Public Radio Emergency Network Meteorologist Megan Borowski.

A Tropical Storm Watch is in effect for the coastal Big Bend, including Apalachee Bay. Tropical storm conditions could arrive Wednesday in the area, bringing with them a threat of tornadoes.

The Florida Department of Education has a list of school districts and public college and university closures. To see if your district or school is closed, go here.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

Find complete bio, contact info, and more stories here.