By: Denise Eberle
Lee County School District is doing a disservice to the children and families of Lehigh Acres. Unfortunately, the school district has not communicated with the families of Lehigh Acres about the proposed new high school which they are proposing to build in Alva on Joel Blvd and Tuckahoe Rd. The children and families in Lehigh deserve a neighborhood high school, where they live.
Alva is in the farthest Northeast corner of Lee County, and this location is contradictory to the Superintendent’s narrative of “neighborhood schools and reduced busing”. To build the school where it is currently proposed is fiscally irresponsible. Every student would require busing to the Alva location, meaning more bus drivers and longer transport times. The school district is now considering lowering bus driver hiring standards because of the busing shortage.
The school district just cut their budget in half from 2.3 billion dollars to 1.4 billion dollars after voting in favor of a seven million dollar Phase 1 for this school. Now other previously planned projects such as school expansions have been cut. By building this high school within Lehigh Acres at the alternative site of 201 Joel Blvd with all its infrastructure, tens of millions of dollars would be saved and could be used towards projects such as the expansion of Estero High School and a fund the 30 million dollar cut for maintenance expenditures eliminating some planned enhancements and upgrade of other existing schools.
The 46.5-acre property at 201 Joel Blvd in Lehigh Acres is owned by the school district is a better alternative property. Below are pertinent points comparing locations.
LEHIGH ACRES PROPERTY
The property I refer to is owned by the school district and is 46.5 acres and located at 201 Joel Blvd in Lehigh Acres. It is a centralized location, in between the two “dead zones” as depicted by the school district. These “dead zones” have no schools and a high school is needed in Lehigh Acres.
It is central to students and families which will significantly reduce busing and allow shorter transportation times since students can walk and ride bikes to school. Parents can drive their kids to school since this location is closer to their homes and makes it easier for parents and students to attend after school sports and activities. Per Lee County School District Planner, in reference to the new School Proximity Zones, “Alva is a geographically significant distance from the student population.”
The students can transition easily from the surrounding elementary and middle schools including Amanecer Elementary, Lemuel Teal Middle. Lehigh Middle, Lehigh Elementary and Veterans Park Academy for the Arts and remain with the friends and families they know.
This location is already a school zone and has all the infrastructure needed and is a safer location, with sewer and water, sidewalks, saving Taxpayers tens of millions of dollars.
There are no environmentally sensitive areas, wildlife concerns, and flooding.
The Alva Location is located on Tuckahoe Road and Joel Blvd. Below are the negative impacts of building the high school at this location.
There are approximately 200 kids total in the Alva community and virtually no kids in a two-mile radius of the proposed location. All students would require busing to the farthest Northeast corner of Lee County, meaning longer transportation times.
There is no infrastructure including sewer, water, cable, high speed internet, etc. This will cost the taxpayers additional tens of millions of dollars above the 140 million dollars to build the school, that could be used for good teachers and classrooms to educate our students.
It is a dangerous traffic area. Joel Blvd is a two-lane road with no sidewalks in the proposed location and is not slated to widen for at least ten years. The neighborhood roads are small, narrow residential roads with deep ditches on both sides leaving no room for pedestrians. If and when they widen the roads, traffic will substantially increase and so will speed, which will be an existential risk to all drivers especially for inexperienced teen drivers, causing accidents to happen.
There are multiple active private gun ranges in the immediate vicinity. Noise from these gun ranges will have schools required to do lockdowns until deemed safe.
This will have a devastating negative impact on the surrounding 20/20 conservation lands. There is a wildlife corridor directly adjacent to the south, east and west of this property. There are black bears, panthers, gopher tortoises, crested caracara birds, sandhill cranes, scrub jay, otters, and even alligators that traverse this property and cross Joel Blvd. Lee County stakeholders have spent millions for preservation of this area.
There are significant environmental impacts including flooding, pollution of the Caloosahatchee River from oil, gas, diesel, fertilizers, and herbicides.
There will be massive amounts of fill needed and endless dump trucks entering and leaving this property of 102 acres. Active continuous construction for at least six years not including the road widening that would follow, which would add at least another two years of construction meaning eight years of continuous construction.
I encourage Lehigh families to please email your school board and let them know you want this high school to be built where it is needed. Wouldn’t it be better to have a high school centralized within these schools rather than the children being bussed miles away? There is still time to stop it from being built in Alva, but you must act now. The school is currently in phase 1, which means they are doing the “groundwork” including design, permits, surveys, engineering. Your children deserve a school close to home. If you want it, you must fight for it. Lehigh parents, get involved! Make sure to attend the school board meetings and bring your children. Do your part by reaching out to the members of the school board. Listed below are the email addresses of the school board members.
EMAILS FOR SCHOOL BOARD
To email the school board. Please visit: https://www.leeschools.net/school_board