Gateway Sun

It would seem that the idea of building a “green school” on top of a former dump site didn’t sit well with the Lee County School District.

Last week the LCSD allowed a contractual deadline to finalize the purchase a 76-acre plot of land on which to build a high school in Bonita Springs to pass, effectively killing the deal. LCSD staff backed away from the agreement after it was discovered that the land in question once stored asbestos pipes and was the site of a diesel spill years ago.

It was a prudent move to walk away. If a school got built there and kids started getting sick ……

Superintendent Greg Adkins told parents that one possibility moving forward was to expand Estero High School and shift the funds for a new school from Bonita Springs to the East Zone.

Adkins specifically named Gateway and Alva as the two possible East locations.

Realistically, it must be built in Gateway.

According to the 2010 census, Alva had about 2,596 people. The entire 33920 zip code had 4,947. Much of the area surrounding Alva is undeveloped. Clearly there are not enough students in the immediate area to fill a high school.

On the other hand, the Gateway Services Community Development District estimates there are 13,000-14,000 people in Gateway alone. When you add in the communities along Treeline as well as the 33973 zip code in Lehigh Acres, you’re probably looking at 25,000 to 30,000 people.

That means there are at least 1,000 high school aged students, and probably closer to 1,500.

Enough for a school.

If the idea is to serve the greatest number of families possible then it’s no contest. The school should be built in Gateway, and not Alva.

If the idea is to save on transportation costs, once again, it’s a no-brainer. Gateway would be cheaper than Alva by hundreds of thousands of dollars just because of the geography involved as well as the population distribution differences between the areas.

If the idea is for the students to make the most of their time, you’re looking at 5-10 minute bus trips compared to 30-45 minute trips, each way, five days per week, for thousands of students.

While it’s understandable that the LCSD wants to project to the taxpayers that it has multiple options on the table, they really have no choice when it comes to the East Zone.

In fact, it may also make more financial sense to build in Gateway than it would in Bonita Springs.

Building a new high school in Bonita Springs would have cost about $70 million and solved only the South Zone’s problems.

But .. building a high school in Gateway and expanding Estero High School can be done for about $72 million total and that would solve the growth in both the South and the East Zones at the same time.

Every piece of data points to Gateway being the most sensible place to build the new high school.

It would save countless hours of transportation time for students and parents. And combined with expanding Estero High School it would easily be the most cost effective use of the LSCD’s dollars.

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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