You may have heard that the Lee County School District is considering building a new public high school in Gateway along Griffin Drive.

And the further along that the school district moves in its site selection process, the more likely a new public school for Gateway becomes.

The LCSD has decided to build a new high school in its East Zone where Gateway resides. The only other site up for consideration against Gateway is in south Alva, which has just 1/10th the student population within a 2-mile radius.

But the question has been brought up on numerous occasions by outsiders to the Gateway community as to why Gateway deserves a second school when Gateway Charter High School is already up and running.

So let’s discuss.

Gateway Charter High School is located at 12770 Gateway Boulevard.

Likewise, Gateway Charter Intermediate School (a middle school) is also located at 12770 Gateway Boulevard.

The two schools operate out of the same building and just for talking, they have roughly 2,000 students split between the middle and high school.

Gateway Charter officials have told the Gateway Sun that only 10% of their student population live in Gateway. With that percentage of Gateway Charter kids living in Gateway, that means there’s only about 100 high school kids who live in Gateway that are actually attending Gateway Charter High School.

Those outside of Gateway have made the generous offer of Gateway residents focusing on correcting what’s wrong with Gateway Charter, and in the process awarding the new LCSD high school to Alva.

But that idea would be the equivalent of asking families from Cape Coral to come together and fix the problems at Gateway Charter.

That’s silly, you say? Cape Coral families don’t send their kids to Gateway Charter.

Neither do families in Gateway.

And here’s another reality….

The school building at 12770 Gateway Boulevard was constructed by a developer for $834,720 in 2004 according to permit filings.

Splitting the cost in half between the two school, they built a high school building for about $417,000.

You get what you pay for.

There’s no auditorium, no athletic fields, etc.

Obviously Charter Schools USA invested millions more on the building to in order to operate a school. But if you’re questioning what happened to the school’s basic amenities — they never built any.

Is it really so strange that Gateway parents would prefer a $50,000,000 public high school with all the bells and whistles for 2,000 students, amounting to facilities that are worth $25,000 per high school seat?

Another problem? CSUSA is a for-profit corporation based in Fort Lauderdale, not Fort Myers. So Gateway residents have no access to the school’s true leadership.

If parents of a public Gateway High School had a bone to pick with the LCSD they could attend any one of the dozens of public meetings held each year and be heard by the elected school board. Plus Gateway parents can contribute to change through the ballot box and oust the existing board if need be. But in the case of Gateway Charter, neither elections or elected school officials exist.

CSUSA and Gateway Charter executives are accountable to share holders, not to the public.

But the most important reason the LCSD board cannot consider Gateway Charter when making their decision on where to place the new public high school is school assignment.

The LCSD cannot assign students to Gateway Charter.

It wouldn’t matter if Gateway Charter had 10 open seats or 10,000. The LCSD cannot say “okay we’re sending you 500 kids.”

You have to specifically apply to go to Gateway Charter, you cannot be assigned there. So with no access to Gateway Charter’s seats, the LCSD can’t really include that school in their planning.

Over-all… since a potential public high school would be phased in… combined with the East Zone’s population growth… there won’t be a shortage of students for Gateway Charter any time soon.

So CSUSA will likely learn nothing from what should have been the eye-opening shock of the community begging to have a public school built in the same town you already operate a school in.

But since CSUSA may only see negligible changes in enrollment figures, especially the first couple of years, they’ll probably continue operating on the cheap since their bottom line won’t be affected enough to take action.

And Gateway parents will continue to refuse to consider sending their children to Gateway Charter.

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

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