In six months the Lee County School District could announce that they’ll be building a new high school in Gateway in time for the 2019-20 school year. If they do make that announcement, one person that families in Gateway will have to thank is Stoneybrook resident John Heck.
The LCSD has identified a need to build a new high school in its East Zone where Gateway resides. While the school district owns a 55-acre piece of land in Gateway that would be perfect for a high school, they also own a 102-acre parcel of land in Alva.
With two properties available the LCSD has tasked its Construction Advisory Committee to evaluate both land options and present a formal recommendation to the elected LCSD School Board by May 2017.
A group of Gateway residents, including Heck, were caught off-guard recently when a well-written opinion piece appeared in the News-Press in favor of the Alva site. The piece was written by Don Ruane, head of Alva Inc., one of the groups trying to influence the school board to select Alva over Gateway.
Ruane’s opinion piece is just the latest sign that things are heating up between the groups trying to convince the LCSD board that their town is better option for a new high school.
Earlier this month both Heck and Ruane attended the Construction Advisory Committee’s public meeting about the site selection process. Both men reported their findings to their support groups on social media, while Heck also appeared in person at the January 19 meeting of the Board of Supervisors of the Gateway Services Community Development District.
Heck updated the GSCDD board, and wanted to “stress the urgency” in regards to there not being a lot of time available for the Gateway CDD to offer its support.
As part of his address to the board Heck made three requests. First, that the GSCDD issue a public statement in support of a Gateway High School. Second, that the GSCDD host a town hall meeting to find out any negative feelings from residents about the project. And third, that members of the GSCDD board and staff attend the next Construction Advisory Committee meeting on February 1.
While no public statement of support was immediately offered from the Gateway board, Supervisor Ed Tinkle, Supervisor Kathleen Flaherty and District Manager In Waiting Chris Shoemaker will be attending the CAC meeting on behalf of the GSCDD.
Both Tinkle and Flaherty were eager to attend, so the GSCDD has issued a public notice that “two or more” of its board members will be attending the CAC meeting. Gateway’s lawyer Anthony Pires said that there will be no violations with Sunshine Laws so long as Flaherty and Tinkle do not speak to each other.
Chairman Margaret Fineberg seemed to suggest that she would support a town hall at a later date if the GSCDD representatives came back from the CAC meeting with feedback that the Gateway District should involve itself or lend support to a public high school being built in Gateway.
Supervisor Bill Guy brought up traffic concerns on Griffin Drive, and Fineberg chimed in that an influx of teenage drivers could also pose a hazard. But those concerns will not influence the LCSD since those factors must be considered no matter where high schools are built.
While formal support from the Board of Supervisors won’t be the deciding factor between Gateway and Alva, it would send a meaningful and positive signal to the LCSD. And thanks to Heck, the CDD board is taking steps to learn about the opportunity to get a new high school in Gateway.
The next Construction Advisory Committee meeting is Feburary 1 at 3:00pm, and will be held at 3308 Canal Street in Fort Myers. The public is welcome to attend.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Residents of Gateway who want to offer their support in favor of a high school in Gateway are encouraged to sign the following petition: