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Board approves spot survey for LAMS, Veterans Park

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Aug 3, 2021

Gwyn Gittens

news@breezenewspapers.com

The School Board of Lee County approved a Department of Education spot survey, which will combine the current campus of Lehigh Acres Middle School and Veterans Park Academy into one unified campus.

Board member Gwyn Gittens was the lone member who opposed.

“Like I mentioned earlier, I am still a little confused about information we get about what is actually happening with Veterans Park. One document I will see Veterans Park expansion, and on another one I will see Veterans Park and the old LAMS. I am very leery voting on anything on moving forward with this until we actually sit down and talk about the project and what it is. I know there was a discussion of having a super school. I am not in agreement with that. There are several options to the old LAMS and I don’t think we have looked at the cost of that. I look at this project and our need for schools in that area and I also look at the cost. I don’t understand why we can’t reprioritize what we are doing. In order to make sure I am comfortable with it I will not be voting for it at this time,” she said.

Operational Planning & Projects Executive Director Kathie Ebaugh said the spot survey allows the old LAMS campus and the current Veterans Park Academy campus to become one campus.

“It paves the way for the work we are going to do on the campus in terms of developing a campus master plan,” she said, as well as evaluating the campus programs, academic programs and evaluating the number of student stations on the campus.

Ebaugh said the facility improvements cannot happen until the two campuses are unified into one campus.

“This is a foundation piece. This doesn’t give any specifics to what will happen on the campus,” she said. “We cannot do anything with a unified campus until we take this step.”

Superintendent Dr. Ken Savage said the spot survey is a procedural step.

“It’s essentially trying to create an opportunity for a canvas in which to work,” he said.

Gittens shared concern of a unified campus during a briefing meeting Monday.

“We have one campus, but we have separate schools. One is a feeder into another one, but they have their own administration and principal,” she said. “I know that the black box theater could still be a joining factor for the two. I cannot support a mega school in that community when everything shows that having over 1,000-1,200 kids in elementary and middle schools is not optimal academically for one and for our demographic in one area.”

Gittens supports separate schools with a performing arts center shared by the two.

Again Ebaugh said that it is a foundational piece, the spot survey. She said the configuration and administration of how the campus will work is all part of the first phase of the master planning, which cannot happen until a spot survey is completed.

“In this case the spot survey looks at the campus facilities and puts it on record. It is taking two campuses that are looked at by the state as two distinct campuses and unified it under one code. It doesn’t mean down the road we cannot change things. It gives us the ability to have a blank slate — (having) two pieces of paper as halves and putting it together as a whole,” Ebaugh said.