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Selection of site for new high school draws closer

April 19, 2017
By JUSTIN MARTIN ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

The Lee County School District is in the process of selecting a site for its new East Zone high school and one of the potential properties is located near Lehigh Acres.

According to Marc Mora, executive director of operational planning and project management, the district has narrowed the selections down to two locations in the eastern zone of Lee County. One site is located at the corner of State Road 82 and Griffin Drive in Gateway, and the other site is located at the corner of Joel Boulevard and Tuckahoe Road in Alva.

"About two years ago when we started to refine our projection model, we found that the East Zone was growing at a very high pace," he said. "It was necessary that we start planning a new school in the East Zone."

Mora explained that the district generally looks at what properties it already owns in growing areas and that is how the two possible sites were chosen.

The district seeks the opinion of a number of committees before a final recommendation is presented to the Lee County School Board, which makes the final decision. Mora said the district's Construction Advisory Committee recommended the Gateway site, while the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee recommend the Alva site.

He explained that the sites will go through two more committees, including the District Advisory Committee which will meet today. Its pick will go to the Site Selection Committee, which will make a recommendation to Superintendent Gregory Atkins.

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Atkins will then present his recommendation to the school board. Mora expects that the school board members will be briefed in late May, with a final decision possible at the June 6 regular meeting.

Don Ruane is a member of ALVA Inc., an Alva-based organization that has been advocating for the construction of a high school in the community for years. Ruane, who sits on the organization's school steering committee, said the school could give residents a place to come together as a community.

"A high school can be the glue that holds the community together. It's a place where people can come for all kinds of events," he said. "It could be academic, it could be cultural, it could be athletics - it's just a great place for a large groups of people to get together."

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The District Advisory Committee will meet today at 6 p.m. in the Board Room of the Lee County Public Education Center, at 2855 Colonial Blvd. in Fort Myers. The meeting is open to the public.

Ruane said he believes that Alva residents deserve a school in the community after years of local youth having to commute to faraway schools, like Riverdale High School and Lehigh Senior High School.

"People (in Alva) have been paying school taxes for about 45 years since the Alva high school closed," he said. "Those tax dollars have gone to support public schools way across Lehigh Acres."

"It's about time we saw some equitable distribution of classrooms out in this area and a little return on our investment, instead of sending our kids on long trips to other schools," Ruane added.

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

Ruane previously stated that the site is well suited for a school with a curriculum with an emphasis on environmental sciences and agriculture. He noted there is room for careful site planning and growth.

At its meeting in October, the Lehigh Acres Community Council voted unanimously to let the Lee County School Board know that it supports ALVA Inc. and the proposed Alva site for the school.

Today, the District Advisory Committee will meet at 6 p.m. at the Lee County Public Education Center, at 2855 Colonial Blvd., Fort Myers. It is open to the public.



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