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New schools coming in not-so-distant future

February 24, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

In an area with more than 100,000 people such as Lehigh Acres, two public high schools are woefully inadequate.

But, if a proposed high school in east Lee County comes to fruition, it will take much of the pressure off the two current schools.

Currently, there is Lehigh Senior and East Lee high schools, with Riverdale taking about 20 percent of the community's students with its Interbaccalaureate program a huge draw.

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There are several elementary, middle and high schools located in Lehigh Acres.

However, there is a desire for Alva to have a new high school on the corner Joel Boulevard and Tuckahoe Road in the far east edge of the community.

Currently, the school board is discussing putting the new school either there or on the corner of Daniels Parkway and State Road 82, which would service east Lee and Gateway.

Both would service areas where much of Lee County is growing, to the east of I-75.

Fact Box

Lehigh Acres schools

Elementary schools:

- G. Weaver Hipps Elementary School, 1200 Homestead Road N., 239-368-7042

- Harns Marsh Elementary School, 1800 Unice Ave. N., 239-690-1249

- Lehigh Elementary School, 200 Schoolside Court, 239-369-2477

- Mirror Lakes Elementary School, 525 Charwood Ave. S., 239-369-2200

- Sunshine Elementary School, 601 Sara Ave., 239-369-5836

- Tortuga Preserve Elementary School, 1711 Gunnery Road N., 239-693-5023

- Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, 49 Homestead Road S., 239-303-3003

Middle schools:

- Harns Marsh Middle School, 1820 Unice Ave., 239-690-2025

- Lehigh Acres Middle School, 104 Arthur Ave., 239-369-6108

- Varsity Lakes Middle School, 801 Gunnery Road, 239-694-3464

- Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, 49 Homestead Road S. 239-303-3003

High schools:

- East Lee County High School, 715 Thomas Sherwin Ave., 239-369-2932

- Lehigh Senior High School, 901 Gunnery Road, 239-693-5353

Source: School District of Lee County

Pamela LaRiviere, who represent District 5 on the Lee County school board, said both locations, which the school district owns, have potential, but it makes sense to reevaluates projections.

"Many people east of I-75 would like to see a high school there because there is a large student population in Gateway," LaRiviere said, adding that some considered it a mistake to put East Lee High School as far out as they did.

"It was not a good attractor for kids because it was so far away. State Road 82 and Daniels has the potential of being a good draw," LaRiviere said.

The construction committee will score the two properties. From there, it goes through the process of committees and public comment until a choice is decided sometime this year.

The schools are expected to be staged in time for the 2018-19 school year with only freshmen in portable classrooms and the next group of freshmen the following year to join them, LaRiviere said. The schools will have their own principals and staff.

There also is an elementary and middle school being planned for the eastern area, LaRiviere said. Both are in the system's five-year plan, although potential locations have not been determined.

LaRiviere said that a K-8 school is possible or even two schools on one campus or at least nearby. She said that probably won't happen until the high school is resolved.

Among the biggest supports of the school district is the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, which provides resources to all the public schools.

Among the programs the foundation funds are the sand-sculpting championships and the "Overcomers" literacy program at East Lee High, "Smarter Musicians" at Lehigh Acres Middle and Flexible Seating & Learning, "Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader" and "Reading for Success" at Veterans Park Academy for the Arts.

On the post-secondary front, longtime area resident and advocate Rick Anglickis said there isn't much happening in regards to bringing in post-secondary education, such as a vocational school, even though there was a movement to bring one in.

Florida Gulf Coast University runs a program out at the old Sunland Training Center, Anglickis said, adding he believes that in the future FGCU will open a branch campus there, though what it may be is still unknown.

"If you look at their student makeup, a majority of their Florida student population comes from Lehigh Acres. There is a huge student base they are pulling from this area," Anglickis said. "This will spawn the expansion of Alico Road."

There are also a number of private institutions from which parents can choose. One is Palm Acres Charter High School, which offers classes year-round to students between ages 16 and 21. Tuition is free and student attend for five hours per day, with three daily sessions, with the hopes being that young people learn a vocation.

Other private schools are Gunnery Road Christian Academy and Harvest Christian Academy, both K-12, and Marantha Private School, which is K-9.



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