Lee County school board approves school choice changes
Proximity preference changes for elementary, middle school students
School choice compromise made for elementary, middle school students. Video by fox4now.comvideo
FORT MYERS, Fla. - School choice changes are coming for Lee County elementary and middle school students.
The school board unanimously approved a new plan Tuesday evening that could move hundreds of kids to a school closer to their home.
For the past year, Fox 4 has heard frustrations from many viewers unhappy with school choice, the lottery system giving students their choice of any county school.
Board members approved the choice compromise which changes the proximity preference for schools.
That means elementary and middle school students who live within 2 miles of a school get first dibs. Then, preference will go to students who live between 2.15 and 5 miles from a school.
If you live outside the 5 mile zone, the old rules still apply. The move will not impact high school students.
"We're hoping that as a consequence of that we will get more students that will be assigned to schools closer to their home," said Superintendent Joseph Burke.
Burke couldn't say how many students would be effected by this but called the number "significant."
"I think what we attempted to do here," said Burke, "was to come up with a way that kind of inches closer to a model where students are closer to their home."
Burke says this will continue to cut down on long bus rides which Fox 4 first exposed two years ago. The district says this could save them nearly $50 million.
But could it be the first steps to a school choice overhaul?
"What would you say to parents who want a return, overall, to neighborhood schools?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.
"If we get from the community an overwhelming level of support to move away from choice and to some kind of boundary school or neighborhood school plan," said Burke, "than I'm quite certain that the board would move in that direction."
The board plans to survey Lee County residents to get their thoughts on school choice.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, in a rotation of roles, Mary Fischer was elected as the new board chairwoman and Jeanne Dozier was elected the new vice chair.
Matt Grant, Reporter