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School board picks Gateway site for new high school in East Zone

June 30, 2017
By ERIC DeVAUX ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

After weeks of deliberation and input from the public, the Lee County School Board has chosen Gateway as the future home for the school district's new East Zone high school.

The board voted unanimously in favor of the site at its June 27 meeting.

"We think it's a good decision," Mary Fischer, chairman of the board, said. "We are happy to embark on this new adventure."

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Mary Fischer

For at least several months, the district had been in the process of deciding between two locations for the new school. One site in Alva, at the corner of Joel Boulevard and Tuckahoe Road, is approximately 103 acres. The Gateway site, located near State Road 82 and Griffin Drive, is approximately 56 acres.

During the lengthy process, four advisory committees for the school board weighed in on their picks.

The Construction Advisory Committee, District Advisory Council and Site Selection Committee recommended the Gateway site, while the Equity and Diversity Advisory Committee voted for Alva. Following the committee recommendations, district staff weighed in suggesting the Gateway site.

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The board was expected to vote at its June 6 meeting, but it did not.

"It was a long process," Fischer said. "We had to gather a lot of information and hear from a lot of people, and toward the end it became easier because the votes in favor of Gateway were far over Alva."

"However, we need more schools so stay tuned," she added.

Before the board voted, supporters of the Gateway location spoke during public input.

"I think it boils down to the fact that we have already experienced all the growth," Jesse Vitter, a local resident and mother, said. "We have the students - everybody in waiting. I think it'll alleviate pressure off your other schools."

Students also shared their thoughts at the meeting.

"I'm asking you to please choose Gateway so we can go to high school with our neighbors and friends," Samuel Leaf, of Gateway, said.

After the vote was made, one Gateway resident expressed excitement about the future.

"We moved into Gateway about 10 to 12 years ago and there was a sign on the property on Griffin and 82 that said, 'Future home of Gateway school,'" John Heck said. "That was one of the deciding factors for us moving into the community."

"Hopefully, that would be ready and built by the time my kids are ready to go to high school," he added.

While the Gateway site had support, so did the Alva site. The group Alva Inc. pushed for the site, pointing out that the curriculum could be focused on agriculture and ecology.

The Lehigh Acres Community Council voted in favor of supporting the Alva site.



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