Gateway Sun

If you were considering moving to Bonita Springs for some reason, you might want to hold off until your kids have graduated high school.

The Lee County School District has decided to build its newest and most sophisticated school its ever conceived on top of a former asbestos dump. The irony is that before the site was selected, the building itself being touted as being an environmentally friendly “green school”.

You may recall that the LCSD backed out of buying site on Imperial Parkway a couple of months ago over concerns about past diesel spills and asbestos.

The owner of the land felt it was so bad that in 2010 it applied for an $8 million grant from Lee County (that was denied) to clean up the land. Now they’re selling it to the school district for $10.9 million.

According to multiple reports, an asbestos clean-up worker who worked at the site named Alfredo Perez Castillo swore under oath in a deposition recently that asbestos remains in multiple locations on the property in various sizes.

Superintendent Greg Adkins was unphased.

“It represents a wonderful opportunity. One of the things I have been feeling really good about, for lack of a better way to say it, is the community wide support for these type of projects and others. Bonita has been a wonderful partner,” Adkins told the News-Press.

An interesting perspective, since residents of Bonita have fought the district literally every step of the way. Bonita Springs residents have packed board meetings to express their overwhelming opposition and one nearby HOA hired a lawyer to take on the LCSD.

Nevertheless, the LCSD board voted 4-0 this past Tuesday to once again proceed with the Imperial Park site.

What does it all mean for a proposed Gateway High School?

It’s a setback.

Just last month Adkins was telling the school board that he needed the members to come to grips with the idea that Bonita may not happen.

“It’s not going to be necessarily pretty, but it’s going to be reality,” Adkins said.

He added: “One opportunity is that we also have high growth in the East Zone. We need a high school there as well. And we have property in the East Zone, actually at least two locations where we could build there, and we could also increase the Estero facility.”

Gateway is in the East Zone. Adkins himself noted that since the LCSD already owns land in this area, they could build a new school and expand Estero High School for roughly the same cost as building the high school in Bonita.

But based on what’s transpired since those statements were made, it’s possible Adkins was just saying those things to extract some kind of concession from the Imperial Parkway land owner. For whatever reason the LCSD is hellbent on building their new “green” school on piece of land that has a well documented history of having multiple kinds of toxic chemicals in the ground.

While both the South and East Zones need schools, there’s only enough money for one school right now.

Finding money for a second school looks bleak since the district is already deep in debt. The LCSD could very well be forced to ask the voters of Lee County to approve a sales tax increase to raise the funds to build the additional schools needed by the district.

The only silver-laced-with-mercury lining in all of this is that if the district does start building in Bonita, they will finally be able to start working on a school in the East Zone.

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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