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Many school projects on tap for east zone

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 2, 2020

news@breezenewspapers.com

The Lee County School Board was briefed on the district’s capital improvement five-year outlook, which included a great deal of projects in the East Zone.

The Capital Improvement Plan is the first of the School District of Lee County and has been a collaborative effort among operations, business services, academic services and information systems divisions.

The plan identified projects from year one to year five. Operations Planning & Project Management Executive Director Kathie Ebaugh said every thing in year one means it is a funded project, and ready to get started. Year two and three projects are planning projects the district knows are moving forward with community and principal involvement as to what they want from that project. The second- and third-year projects also include working with maintenance and budget to know what it will cost, as well as construction and design.

“It is a interdepartmental team made up of 20 to 30 people,” she said.

Years four to five projects are those that are out there that the district thinks may develop into something, but they may not. Ebaugh said the board may see the project just drop off the list, or stay out there for a while because they think it is a good idea, but it has not matured to the point it is being worked on with an effort.

“Anything year from two to five can change,” she said.

Part of the presentation included district property purchases for a total investment of $26,305,905.

Ebaugh said one of the things they are doing with the proximity plan is really identifying where these properties are located in relationships to where students are.

“Some of our current projects and placements are really close to one another,” she said. “We are looking to spread them out in better locations to where are students are, so we can create more neighborized campuses.”

East Elementary School J was also discussed, which is adjacent to the MM school. She said it is a $53 million investment in a new elementary school in the East Zone in Lehigh with a schedule to open in August 2024.

Another highlight of the presentation was the East Innovation PreK-8 school with an estimated investment of $75 million. It is scheduled to open in August 2024.

The Fort Myers Technical College will have a $10 million refresh of the campus, as it is one of the superintendent’s “big five” announced in meeting the Envision 20/20 goals of creating future resources for the workforce employment and technology training.

“This is going to be a phased project. This year we are going to be doing a design on the project. We will break ground next summer and it will be completed by August 2023,” Ebaugh said.

The campus will remain open during the refresh.

Chief Academic Officer Dr. Jeff Spiro said one of the goals is to increase capacity and make their programs at the technical colleges current to what the job needs are. He said they want to make sure the facilities are representing the experiences of the workforce.

There is currently a waiting list to get into the technical colleges of the district.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said the refresh will allow for expansion in some of the programs that are popular. He said they want to expand into the East Zone, which will be via the expansion of Fort Myers Technical College into the East Zone.

“We are currently working on that. I think it is a little bit outside of this five-year plan, but it is in the near future,” Adkins said. “We will do this, Cape Coral Technical and then the expansion.”

Board Member Chris Patricca said she did not realize the expansion into the East Zone would be an additional Fort Myers Technical College campus.  

Ebaugh said the land for the Fort Myers Technical College campus in Lehigh is part of the property purchases in the 5-year plan.

“When we budgeted what we would need for the 5 years for property purchases we included the land we would need to purchase in Lehigh Acres for a technical college,” she said.

There also was discussion of the Lehigh Acres Middle School campus, which was known as MM. There will be a topping off ceremony in September for this campus, officially naming it Lehigh Acres Middle School, so little Lehigh Acres Middle School will move to this campus, providing it a brand new opportunity to rebrand and represent itself to the Lehigh Acres community, Ebaugh said.

With MM becoming the new campus for Lehigh Acres Middle School that allows for the expansion for Veteran’s Park to be a K-8 campus, which will encompass the Veteran’s Park and current LAMS campus, she said. The project will be connected to a new Veteran’s Park K-8 Performing Arts Center.

There is completion date set for August 2021 with an estimated investment of $30,575,000.

An expansion to the sidewalk at Varsity Lakes Middle School was also highlighted with an expected completion of January 2021 with an estimated price tag of $230,000. The project allows for connectivity between Varsity Lakes Middle School and Lehigh Acres Senior High.

Riverdale High School is one project that came from the school board’s priorities. This year they have funds for design.

“Because this design will be more of a campus masterplan, we actually don’t start construction for two years, so we will be working on design for about a year and a half. In two years from now we will start working on the campus as a phased effort,” Ebaugh said.

She said they have a lot of ideas that need to happen on the campus from an upgraded science wing to an upgraded gym and cafeteria facility, renovated classroom and hallroom space.

“That’s why we decided rather than doing a traditional design that would take us about six months on a refresh project, we would really take the time to do a campus masterplan and really decide what is the best to improve this campus,” Ebaugh said.