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Charter school in Fort Myers being shut down

Posted at 4:49 PM, Sep 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-16 22:32:39-04

FORT MYERS — The Lee County School Board is shutting down a charter school in Fort Myers.

The decision was made in an emergency meeting Wednesday. District staff who visited the school reported overflowing trash bins, kids walking around unsupervised, and only two teachers running the whole operation.

Lee County Schools staff showed up at the Collegiate Charter School Wednesday with deputies to deliver the closure notice. School Board Member Melisa Giovannelli said she doesn't know of anything like this ever happening before.

"It's very unprecedented to actually close a charter school that just barely opened," said Giovannelli.

But Board Members were in unanimous agreement that the school needed to be shut down after hearing reports from staff. Lee Schools Program Development Director Teri Cannady said they didn't even know who was working there.

"We honestly do not know who the people are that are on campus that are teaching these kids. Have they been screened? Have they been, all of those things," said Cannady.

And it was only when Cannady and other staff members finally did come to see how the school was running that they quickly discovered only two teachers were in charge of the entire school.

"I said, well, how are you doing three classrooms with two adults? And then she showed me how she could stand between the two classrooms, and I said, you absolutely cannot do that. This is not a way to teach students," said Cannady.

Other staff reported that kindergarteners were walking around unsupervised, and trash was overflowing out of bins. But Giovannelli says there were warning signs all the way back in April of last year when she and the other board members approved the school's charter.

"We approved a school that we didn't have a facility address to, and apparently that's kind of common, and I was like how does that happen?" said Giovannelli.

Cannady answered her question in the meeting.

"They are able to open and have their application approved without the facility being selected, and I think that's a statutory thing," said Cannady.

The school district will provide temporary teachers at the Collegiate School to work with the children there. The district says it will eventually relocate each of the children to a new school.