The Lee County School District revealed yesterday that they suffered a massive setback in their efforts to build a new high school in Bonita Springs.

As the result of a large diesel spill years ago on the 76-acre property the LCSD was set to acquire at the corner of Imperial Parkway and Shangri-La Road, the district allowed the contract deadline to finalize the deal to expire.

There were also concerns that in recent years the site had asbestos issues and that it was used as a dumping ground for old pipes.

Superintendent Greg Adkins said that the district hasn’t totally given up on Bonita Springs, but he also told the elected board members that he was prepared to present them with other options, which he did.

Referring to the idea of abandoning Bonita and building elsewhere, Adkins said, “It’s not going to be necessarily pretty, but it’s going to be reality.”

Said Adkins: “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.”

That plan would see Estero High School expanded and a new school built in the East Zone which, according to Adkins, would allow for the district to add 2,800 seats and would reduce the South Zone’s expected ‘occupancy rate’ from 105% in 2016-17 to 98.7% in 2017-18, essentially buying time. It would also see the East Zone drop from 101% in 2016-17 to 94-95% in 2018-19.

The bad news for the district is that kids in Bonita Springs would still be face long school bus trips every day to and from Estero. The good news is that the LCSD already owns two sites in the East Zone, so they would save money in the short-term on buying land.

The district had planned to pay $11 million for the Bonita site. That wouldn’t be necessary in the East Zone where the LCSD already owns sites along Griffin Drive in Gateway, and a parcel near SR-80 in Alva.

Now … the last time the Gateway Sun reported that Gateway was the back-up plan if Bonita fell through, all hell broke loose.

On December 15, 2015 we wrote: 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.

At the time, the LCSD’s communications department went on a full-court blitz to re-assure the public that it was Bonita Springs all the way. No doubt about it. There was no Plan B, only Plan A.

And the plan was to build in Bonita Springs. Any reports suggesting otherwise were nonsense, according to the LCSD six months ago.

Yesterday, the Superintendent told the LCSD board that Gateway might be the location of the district’s next high school after-all.

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

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