Multiple sources have reached out to the Gateway Sun in recent days with additional information regarding the Lee County School District’s process of building a new high school.

Right now, the funding is approved and available to build one new high school in the district. The preferred destination is Bonita Springs in the LCSD’s South Zone, but that community has responded with strong objections to the idea.

The Sun has learned that as a result of the reluctance in Bonita the LCSD has begun exploring a possible band-aid solution for the South Zone. The contingency plan, which is still only in discussion phases, would see a new wing built on to Estero High School and increasing that school’s population to help solve the South Zone’s immediate problems. The available funds for the new school would then be shifted to the East Zone, and the new high school would likely be built in Gateway. Essentially they would be kicking the can down the road in the South Zone, but something has to get done there – quick.

We had previously reported (most recently on on December 8, 2015) that the LCSD was considering building a new high school in their East Zone, but that was only half true. That’s because the Sun has now learned that the district’s student population projections call for two high schools to be built in the East Zone. Gateway would be the first location, and as things currently stand, Alva would be the second.

One source also explained to us that building a school in Gateway isn’t only about serving our community. There are fears that the existing schools in the East Zone are quickly becoming overpopulated. From the school board’s perspective, just having more schools is a larger priority than putting one specifically in Gateway. Building new schools, regardless of where they go, will relieve the pressure on the existing schools.

But what we’ve been hearing is that the Lee County School District does not want a repeat of Bonita Springs. If Gateway residents are going to throw a Bonita-style hissy fit, we’re told the district would prefer to know before-hand and it could very well jeopardize the plan. School board officials are said to be beyond frustrated with the reaction in Bonita Springs and as a result are prepared to throw in the towel there.

In Gateway there will probably be a group made up of mostly empty-nesters who object to a new high school, just as they would object to basically anything. The Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District will likely be divided on the issue, however it isn’t clear how much direct control they would have over the process. Most of them can also be replaced this coming November if they become a problem.

On the flip side, most families would be overjoyed with the prospects of a Gateway High School that’s part of the public school system. Many parents in town would throw a parade for the school board if we got a school here. When was the last time we had a parade down Gateway Boulevard anyway?

The comments I get from parents are usually either A) that they hope the school can be built in time for their kids to go there; or B) they lament that their kids will probably be done school before it can be built, but it will be good for the community.

One valid concern was raised to me earlier this week that would actually turn out to be great news for all Gateway residents. As part of any plan to build a new high school here, the traffic concerns at Griffin Drive and SR-82 would have to be permanently resolved. So we’d be killing two birds with one stone in essence. Not only would we have a public high school for our area kids, but we’d also rid ourselves of the traffic headaches at that intersection.

It seems to be a case of not-if-but-when we’ll get a school here. From what I’ve been told, school board officials are locked in on Gateway as a location. And now with two schools planned for the East Zone our chances just doubled. As to the “when” … some plans call for a Gateway school to be built by 2019, however it could come much sooner than that if things continue to deteriorate in Bonita Springs.

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

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