Plans for a new Estero school could come to a halt

The district could halt plans for a proposed school in Lee County as soon as Tuesday. A pending project for a school in Estero has been met with backlash in the past few weeks. Those who propose the project point to disparities in need and resources within the district.

Officials with the School District of Lee County say the district has already dumped close to $3 million into a potential school in Estero. But, after evaluating the numbers requested by WINK News more than a month ago, that project may be stopped.

“If we were to submit our plan survey to the DOE today, would we receive state approval to build quadruple A,” asked one official at a school board meeting. “No. We would not receive permission to build that school.” This simple answer could have massive implications for the School District of Lee County.

A new school in Estero has been in the works for years, but that plan could be scrapped before shovels even hit the dirt.

The public has concerns about whether or not this school is needed. They point to potential capacity issues in other areas of the county. Those concerns led to a reevaluation of recent data.

Officials believe that overcrowding in Estero has slowed. Ken Savage is the Interim Superintendent for Lee County Schools. “It’s slower growth. So the slower growth due to rising real estate costs, that change. It was already a slow growth area,” Savage said.

After being presented with the most recent numbers, several school board members made their feelings about the Estero project crystal clear. Those most recent numbers included student capacity versus student enrollment across the district and the significant disparity in portable units in the East School Zone.

Gywn Gittens is the Lee County School Board member assigned to District 5. “I will be making a motion tomorrow to stop the project, the financing, and the focus. And to move forward to prioritize our resources in a different direction,” Gittens said.

Melisa Giovannelli is also a school board member. “I don’t think the need is there. I will not be supporting building the school in Estero. I think we need to re-look at where the need is,” said Giovannelli.

Betsy Vaughn is the Lee County School Board member assigned to District 6. “Where do we go from here? Do we throw more money at something, or do we cut our losses? I’m not supporting it,” Vaughn.

So far, it is unclear what direction the district will go in if the Estero project is halted. But, several board members appear to be on the same page that students come first. “We haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on it but what we have seen eye-to-eye on is, what’s more important is students,” said Gittens.

The Lee County School Board will hold an action meeting on Tuesday night. At that meeting, a motion to stop the Estero project will be presented.

WINK News reached out to Chris Patricca the school board member who was the biggest advocate for the new school in Estero. We never heard back.

Reporter:Peter Fleischer
Writer:Drew Hill
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