Three-story Gateway High School still under construction, plans to open in 2021

Published: August 25, 2020 6:47 PM EDT
Updated: August 25, 2020 7:34 PM EDT

Rapid growth in one area of Lee County is leading to the need for a bigger school to educate more children. Gateway High School wants to be that model, dawning three stories and is set to be completed in 2021.

Right now, all you can see the shell, the bare bones if you will. But those helping finish the project say they wanna give students something to be proud of.

“A school that you can be proud to go to,” said Brian Lee, Project manager for the Gateway High School construction.

The school is going to be three stories and is supposed to house 2,000 students come next school year. Which is going to help with overcrowding at other schools in the county.

We need the seats for students that live in the east zone, so we are building them as fast as we can,” said Rob Spicker, Spokesperson for the School District of Lee County.

Spicker says he’s seen the number of students rise almost by that day.

Families are moving east but that’s contributing to overcrowding. But Gateway High School is supposed to alleviate that.

“This is going to help a lot. It’s going to help a lot,” said Spicker. “Allow more students to be here instead of in those hallways, spread it out a little more equitably.”

Principal Neketa Watson put on her hard hat to give WINK News Reporter Sydney Persing a tour, beginning with the future weight room.

“It’s being built state of the art, brand new equipment,” Watson said.

Watson may be Gateway’s first principal but she’s no stranger to working in the east zone. “So I lived it. At Lehigh acres middle school, we were overcapacity, we had 18 portables, so it’s necessary,” she said.

There will also be a black box theater fit for Shakespearian performances. In a 21st century twist, lockers on the walls are being replaced with windows to watch students working.

This is also the first Lee County School built during the pandemic through COVID conscious construction practices.

“It had us go back and sort of rethink things. In the middle of being in construction,” Lee said.

At first this seemed like it would be challenging but the team thinks they’ve created some very useful amenities in the time of coronavirus.

“It had us go back and sort of rethink things. In the middle of being in construction,” admits Lee.

But they found a way to incorporate touchless water fountains, bottle filters and used easy-to-clean surfaces during construction.

But Lee hopes the students won’t need any of that and everything can go back to normal. “Hopefully by the time the school opens it’s not an issue anymore, but the thought has gone into this building,” he said.

Gateway High School is a good place to start but it certainly will not be the last school to open in the eats zone.

This is where we are seeing people move to with children, so this is the first of several to come,” said Spicker.

Until it’s opening next fall, Gateway freshman will learn in portables parked at Lehigh Acres Senior High School.