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Local activist pushes for Alva to be site for new high school

February 8, 2017
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Local community activist Don Ruane is crossing his fingers and hoping that a site in Alva will be selected for the next East Zone high school.

The Lee County School District began a thorough review in January of two sites - one in Alva and one in Gateway - where the school could be located.

Lehigh Acres and Alva students will attend the next new high school.

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Don Ruane

"Now is the time to boot up your laptops or get out pen and paper to write to your school board members and the news media to tell them what you think. They are going to decide this spring, maybe in May or June, so the school can open in time for the 2019-20 school year," Ruane, of Alva said.

"We (Alva Inc.) say build it on school district property at Joel Boulevard and Tuckahoe Road, just north of Greenbriar," he continued. "We also recommend a curriculum with a heavy emphasis on environmental sciences and agriculture."

The other site being considered is in Gateway, but Ruane said the site at Griffin Boulevard at state Route 82 will be under construction through 2020

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He called Gateway a "fine site," but said the district predicts another high school will be needed in the East Zone in about five years.

"So why not wait for the construction turmoil to subside before sending 2,000 students into its midst every day?" Ruane asked.

He said the Alva site is well suited for a school, with an emphasis on environmental education and agriculture.

The 102-acre site, purchased in 2007 for $6.1 million, is located near thousands of acres of Conservation 20/20 land, the Caloosahatchee, the Greenbriar Swamp, and the Bedman, Hickey's and Telegraph creeks.

"All of this will provide outstanding opportunities for field studies and activities that support the environmental studies and agricultural education program," Ruane said.

He believes graduates who are environmentally and agriculturally literate will be prepared to make career and lifestyle decisions.

"They will be better prepared to help the rest of us address problems, such as the green algae in the river, or to work in agriculture, which employs an estimated 51,000 people in Lee County," Ruane said.

According to him, the choice to choose the Alva site has been discussed at Alva Inc., has been brought up in recent meetings and information has been distributed through Alva Inc. newsletter.

Ruane said information has been shared on the "Alva, Florida, Friends and Family" and "East Zone High School" Facebook pages and online at:, which reaches more than 800 households in northeast Lee.

"We also have a school district planning staff focused on a smaller district-owned site in Gateway, because more children live within walking distance of it," he said.

Ruane said there is room in Alva for careful site planning and growth. Uses that are offensive to neighbors can be located as far away as possible. There also is room to expand the high school or for other district uses.

He said about 143 homes are within a mile of the site, but about 345 homes are within one-half mile of the Gateway site.

"The Alva site will disrupt far fewer residents," Ruane said.

He wants locals to urge the district to use the Alva site, saying it is least disruptive to residents and will wisely use tax dollars.

"What you have to do is speak up for the best use of your tax dollars and interests of our children," Ruane said.

He has the endorsement of the Lehigh Acres Community Council and hopes others will offer their suggestions and endorsements.



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