Given a community mandate, Lee school board agrees to “Gateway High School” name

Posted on November 01, 2019, 6:41 am
6 mins

Well that was easy.

After a two-month battle over what to name the Lee County School District’s new high school being built along Griffin Drive in Gateway, the elected school board members finally relented to public pressure at yesterdays board briefing meeting. The school now has a name: Gateway High School.

The board reached that consensus, and it will be put forth to them at a formal vote on November 5 to make it official. A groundbreaking ceremony for MMM Gateway High School will take place on November 13.

The naming process was not without controversy, which you already know if you read the local newspaper. Or watch TV. Or own a smartphone. Or a radio.

Re-hasing everything that went down in this space at this time simply would not be productive. At this point it’s time to give credit where credit is due. Especially to the trio of school board members who fought against the name Gateway High School to varying degrees, but who eventually agreed to cast their votes this coming Tuesday in favor of the community’s highly preferred name.

About that.

The second community survey results were announced at the board briefing, and approximately 7,170 people voted in favor of the Gateway High School name. Consider that several years ago only 169 people voted in favor of Bonita Springs High School.

The actual data released by the school district regarding the newest survey was that 11,916 total votes were cast and that 60.2% were in favor of Gateway. Edison High School came in second place with 19.3% of the vote, while Martin Luther King Junior High School had 14.9%, and Gabriela Mistral High School received 5.3%.

Oddly, 0.3% of people who took the survey said they didn’t care what the school would be named. Which makes me wonder why they took the survey, but whatever.

So now it’s on to the colors and mascot for the new school. Leading that process will be the school’s first ever principal, Neketa Watson. I don’t know too much about what’s going on there since worrying about a mascot would have been putting the cart before the horse. But from what I’ve heard Watson has engaged branding experts of some sort and is consulting with others. Again I don’t know exactly what’s going on but my point is she’s not just choosing the mascot and colors on her own. I suppose I’ll reach out to Watson next week and see what’s happening with all that. But what this publication won’t be doing is inserting ourselves into that process.

Unlike the Gateway High School name, which was a clear community consensus and the only name worth fighting for in the opinion of many, I’ve probably heard 15 good ideas for the mascot. But none of them is worth causing a ruckus over – except my own pick of course – which is Gateway Gladiators!

In all seriousness, it’s been a long and emotionally draining two months for everyone in Gateway who cared deeply about the name topic. I’m sure it hasn’t been easy for the school board members either. At the end of the day the board members did listen to the will of the people. For all that’s been said, we have to give them credit for that. It’s obvious that three of the board members did not want the community’s chosen name, but in the end they came through and based their school name consensus on the community’s message to them.

There is a closed (as in non-public) Facebook group dedicated to supporting Gateway High School. It’s been highly active ever since the Gateway-or-Alva debate of 2017 and obviously was in overdrive since August 2019 over the potential name choice. I think I can speak on behalf of that group and many other people in Gateway when I say thank you to the board members for listening to all of us.

The community has a state-of-the-art high school coming soon — which now has the perfect name for it. There’s reason for real excitement and optimism and I’m sure the communities of Gateway and Lehigh Acres are thrilled about the opportunities that Gateway High School will have to offer. And just being real, many of us are looking forward to that first high school football game when we can truly soak it all in!

The first freshman class will be staged in portables on the Lehigh Senior High School campus in August 2020, with the Gateway High school facility itself set to open in August 2021.

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

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