Officials plan school construction to accommodate population influx

Published: February 12, 2019 6:22 PM EST
Updated: February 13, 2019 11:25 AM EST

As people are flocking to Southwest Florida in high numbers, officials have been addressing ways to accommodate the growth in the education sector.

For many Gateway parents like Jeff Gerardo who have kids in grade school, they are excited about a potential new school opening just down the road.

“You’re getting three schools all the way to 5th grade and after, towards middle school, 6th, 7th and 8th grade, where are they going to go?” Gerardo said. “The choices are very limited.”

The Lee County School Board is considering the construction of several schools to match county growth.

They plan to build a middle and high school in the east zone. This and other projects, like the expansion of Lehigh Senior High School, are being paid for by the half-cent sales tax approved by voters.

The district and Lee County are also making sure the school is up to shelter standards while looking for ways to reduce expenses. The east zone high school, for instance, is projected to cost $78 million with construction to start this summer.

“We actually go in and do what we call value engineering,” said Scott Reichenbacher, Senior Program Manager. “That’s rethinking materials, rethinking layout means and methods that could save dollars.”

For Gerardo, he said he hopes the new schools will hopefully accommodate student growth. The east zone is expected to be at 100 percent capacity by 2020 before the new middle school and high school is built.

“I believe with the new high school, the new middle school, it’s going to take that number down,” Gerardo said. “It’ll be less students in a classroom and more focused on them.”