Gateway Sun

Blame Canada?

According to a special presentation that will be made by a woman named Ruby Daniels to the Lee County School District board tomorrow, one of the reasons the LCSD should build its next high school in Alva instead of Gateway is due to “Talk of a 20% tariff on Canadian lumber”.

Daniels is the President of an Alva-based political action organization, and is also part of a so-called “steering committee” within that organization whose specific job it is to convince the LCSD build a 2,000 seat high school in south Alva at the intersection of Joel Blvd and Tuckahoe Road.

The other option under consideration for the LCSD is to build the school in Gateway along Griffin Drive.

In addition to the potential lumber tariff, Daniels will offer an unlikely suggestion that the LCSD could solve its water concerns at the Alva site by hooking up to a Florida Government Utility Authority water main about 2.25 miles away. But her presentation conveniently forgets to mention that for an FGUA connection to happen the LCSD would have to enter in to an agreement with the Lehigh Acres Municipal Services Improvement District and get approval from the public in a referendum.

The reality is that the nearest available water main that the LCSD will actually be able to hook in to is 10 miles away, according to school district officials.

And either way a sewage plant would need to be built at the school, and the treated wastewater would be released in to the surrounding environment.

Great stuff.

In a section of the presentation titled “Student estimates not adding up well” … Daniels’ presentation questions the ability of the school district to count the number of students they have attending their schools. According to the presentation, the LCSD did not account for up to 20% of the student population in terms of which schools they are assigned.

Daniels is the second person from the Alva-based group to publicly question the abilities of those involved in the site selection process. Last month an associate of Daniels raised concerns about the competency of the Construction Advisory Committee.

Daniels’ presentation also states: “Sometimes it’s better to pay more upfront to get the long-lasting benefits of an investment in the future.”

Notice that it didn’t say “Sometimes it’s better to pay more upfront” to enjoy cost saving at a later date. That’s because there would be no long-term savings, only additional long-term costs.

While Daniels is correct that it will cost millions more “upfront” to build in Alva instead of Gateway, she left out that there will also be millions more in transportation expenses for decades to come. And the statement suggests that investing in Alva would somehow yield better “benefits of an investment in the future” than the money would being spent in Gateway, or Bonita Springs, or anywhere else for that matter.

But the main focus of Daniels’ presentation centers on how the potential “world class Alva school” can be used for a curriculum based on environmental studies and agriculture technologies.

Sounds great. But East Lee County High School or Dunbar could do the same thing.

As could a new school in Gateway. If that’s what the LCSD wanted to do.

Daniels’ group is deliberately putting the cart before the horse. They know full well that curriculum decisions come after the site selection process. And they also know that in this day and age, any curriculum can be taught from anywhere.

It’s an obvious attempt to deflect the conversation away from the fact that the Gateway site is superior to the Alva site in every meaningful way.

Want the truth? The Alva political activist group wouldn’t care what the curriculum was as long as they got the school built in south Alva. If they thought they could convince people that the students would study and interact with a family of unicorns that wanders the fields at Joel and Tuckahoe they probably would have went with that instead. (At least that would have actually been a one-of-a-kind curriculum opportunity.)

Daniels and her very small number of supporters just want the school so it can draw development to the south side of Alva. Based on their own words, their organization’s mission is to ensure that as much of the development as possible occurs in south Alva, while the north side of town (where they all live) remains rural.

I give them credit because a 2,000-seat LCSD high school would indeed make an excellent magnet to draw developers’ attention to the south side of town.

It’s a clever idea, they’ve worked hard, and if their agenda succeeds it would ensure their peaceful way of life continued in north Alva — albeit at the cost of tens of millions when all is said and done to the tax payers.

And here all Gateway has to offer is 10 times more kids, millions in cost savings, available utilities already on site and an extremely enthusiastic community.

Tough decision.

We should know by the end of the month which site the board will choose.

Tomorrow, sometime between 2:00pm and 5:00pm, the elected school board will be reminded that the LCSD’s Construction Advisory Committee, District Advisory Council, Site Selection Committee and … I’m told … the unicorns, have all officially recommended Gateway to the LCSD board. Then Superintendent Greg Adkins will announce that the LCSD staff are also recommending the Gateway site be chosen.

Then sometime after 6:00pm, Daniels will outline the above-stated case filled with half-truths, and centering on a curriculum opportunity that could be done anywhere – not just in Alva.

The board is expected to choose between Gateway and Alva on June 27.

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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