Eight-figure school project in Estero halted in unanimous decision

New data threatened the completion of a school project on Estero. That new data has school board members questioning the need for the eight-figure school.

That project was years in the making, but several board members spoke out against it at Monday’s workshop. On Tuesday, a board member told WINK News that she would make a motion to halt the project.

Lee County School Board member Gwyn Gittens has been concerned for months about investing tens of millions of dollars into a new Estero school. “I make a motion that we suspend the constructions plans for quadruple A at this time,” said Gittens.

Other board members agreed with the motions and cited other areas of the county with greater need, specifically in the east zone. Melisa Goivannelli is a school board member. “I will be supporting Ms. Gittens’ motion, but I still think that we have to address this much deeper and take a deeper dive into how we got here,” said Giovannelli.

Betsy Vaughn is another Lee County School Board member. “I would not be opposed to that as well. To see if there were illegal machinations that occurred during this time period. I will be supporting this,” Vaugh said.

The public was also allowed to comment before the board voted on the motion. They seemed overwhelmingly against the building of this school. “In a community that is over 70 percent retirees, they aren’t having babies at 65 years old. So, the money should have never been put there,” Jacquelyn said.

“No child in Lee County should have to spend a single year in a portable. And the fact that we have had generations, it makes me want to literally cry.”

Then, that motion was put to a vote but the school board. The motion to halt the proposed Estero school passed unanimously. “Miss Fischer? Aye. And aye. 7-0, the motion passes.”

Officials say that the district has already spent almost $3 million on the Estero school project. But, after public concern grew about the need for a new school in that area, the school board decided to reevaluate. The Lee County school board decided to look at enrollment vs. capacity and growth in that specific area of Estero.

Board members believe the school could have ended up costing close to $100 million. They think that money could be more useful elsewhere.

All of these discussions came to a head at Monday’s district workshop. “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.

“Where do we go from here? Do we throw more money at something, or do we cut our losses? I’m not supporting it,” said Vaughn.

This, however, won’t be the last we hear of the Estero school project. Multiple Lee County School Board members called for an audit and an investigation into why the project was allowed to progress this far.

Reporter:Peter Fleischer
Writer:Drew Hill
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