Gateway Sun

Earlier this week the Lee County School District approved an $11 million purchase of land at the corner of Imperial Parkway and Shangri-la Road in Bonita Springs, and the school board also unanimously approved the site as the location for Bonita Springs High School. The plan is for the new facility to be ready for the 2018-19 school year.

The total Bonita Springs project could cost approximately $70 million.

Now that the district’s South Zone high school situation has been resolved, the LCSD will be turning its attention to solving the problems in the East Zone (where Gateway is located) next.

The two largest questions surrounding an East Zone high school are first, how to pay for it; and second, whether to put the school in Gateway or Alva.

Ultimately, the first decision will be decided by the taxpayers in Lee County. The second question will be decided by the LCSD school board.

The LCSD board voted to end any consideration for requesting a 0.5% sales tax increase in Lee County during the November elections. That would have been the fastest way to fund the East Zone high school, but the school board felt they had not earned the trust of the community and didn’t want to risk putting the tax increase to a vote.

Realistically, if the taxpayers never agree to a sales tax increase, then the primary option would be for the LCSD to go in to debt in some form or another. This would most likely be done through loans or issuing bonds. Cutting costs from the school district’s $1.3 billion sounds great, but they’ll never be able to cut enough to fund all the future expansion plans. The school district could also try to have some taxes placed on new building construction in the county as well, but that too would likely be insufficient to pay for all the future growth.

For right now, the question of funding is totally up in the air.

On the second topic: putting a high school in Gateway or Alva… that situation isn’t very clear either right now.

Currently the LCSD board is a 5-member, elected body, divided geographically by district with Gateway being in District 2. However, two additional county-wide board seats are being added to the board – growing the board to 7 members. Those two seats are both up for election in November 2016.

Unless the current 5-member board decides to accelerate the process of deciding the location of the East Zone high school, it will be the 7-member board that makes the decision, most likely not until 2017.

Also of interest to Gateway residents, the District 2 seat is also up for election in November. Jeanne Dozier has been the District 2 representative on the board since November 2000, and is running for re-election again. This time around she faces Charles Flores, Alexander King, David Lusk and Stephen Solak.

None of the five candidates are Gateway residents.

For District 6 and 7 (county-wide seats) there are a total of 11 candidates who have entered the race so far, but again none of them live in Gateway.

The good news is that none of the candidates for Districts 6 and 7 live in Alva, either.

Alva is in District 5, and that seat is not up for election until November 2018.

Individuals have until June 24, 2016 to announce their candidacies.

With the dust just settling in Bonita Springs, it seems likely that it will be months – and possibly until after the November elections – before we have any concrete news about the East Zone. But at least now with Bonita decided, we know that Gateway or Alva is next.

The LCSD already owns land along Griffin Drive and SR-82 where a potential Gateway High School could be built.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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