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Lehigh Senior High expansion under way

January 30, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

A $13 million upgrade is in the works at Lehigh Senior High School.

Member of the media got a first look at the work being done at the school that, when finished, will make Lehigh Senior the largest high school in Lee County.

There a lot in progress:

What was once the media center is now an empty shell. What was once a parking lot is now a flattened area of sand.

Students and teachers are having their classes moved elsewhere while renovations and other improvements are taking place in classrooms.

Those additions and improvements -?and more - will be completed by the beginning of next school year as part of a School District of Lee County capital improvement plan to be funded through the voter-approved half-cent sales tax initiative.

Jackie Corey, Lehigh Senior principal, said work started during the winter break and it will require a little bit of give and take from the teachers and students.

"It's a great big puzzle with a lot of moving parts. We're doing renovations while school is in session which involves moving people around," Corey said. "The kids are curious but excited about all the opportunities they will have."

The current school has 1,824 students, with 400 more in 16 portables. The addition will allow them to add another 300 to that total, meaning that 2,545 students will attend the new school. Corey said the school is one of the very few in Lee County that has the acreage to do such renovations.

The work, being done by Chris-Tel, is expected to be complete by July 19, when staff begins to prepare for the school year that is expected to begin Aug. 8.

"It's a collaboration with Ms. Corey, the architects and our design team, going room by room to see how they can be rearranged, and the ROTC played a big part in it.," said Steve Hanna, facility development director with the Lee County School System. "It was a collaboration to see where we can find space."

The growth will likely mean a higher class for athletics and who they will compete with, as well as reanalyze the way the school is run, Corey said.

As for the portables, they will lay idle for a year before the first freshman class at Gateway High School takes them over for a year, with an extra 10 portables being moved in for offices, cafeteria, etc before the new Gateway High School is opened for the 2020-21 school year.

The media center has been completely gutted. In its place will be a digital arts center and a smaller media center that will act more like a gathering place.

Soon to be erected will be a new 14,500-square-foot two-story building which will primarily house the school's JROTC leadership academy. The program is the largest in the country and has outgrown the area it resides in now. There will be 10 instructors guiding the nearly 1,000 students who take part.

The area they are in now will be renovated and turned into classrooms, possible to be replaced by a culinary academy, which is planned to start next year.

Also being added will be a workout pavilion where students can get into good physical condition and hold afterschool activities, as well as a zip line, rappelling tower and more.

"The new building will allow us to serve the students better. Right now, we're crushed in, with 90 freshmen trying to get into one classroom," said Lt. Col. Tim Walter, ROTC senior instructor. "We have to do a lot outside and during rainy season it's uncomfortable for the students, so we will have the pavilion. It will really help with team-building with the students."

Nearly 200 security cameras have been added to monitor things both inside and out. The front entryway will be completely renovated as well, as will the gates and clinic.

Teachers have been moved to different classrooms as the work continues. The students don't seem to mind, seeing as there will be a greater reward at the end of the rainbow.

"I am so proud of the staff here for the things they do for their students. As a freshman I had no problem walking through the halls, but the last few years a lot of new kids have come and classrooms are bigger in size," said Alek Hernandez, senior class president at the school. "This will reduce class size and the teacher can be more hands on with the students."

"We're really excited with the growth we have experienced. We don't have adequate space with the number of students we have now," Corey said. "Lehigh Senior is a community school. We serve students during the day, hold community events and have night school here. This will be a nice addition that will serve the entire community."



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