FORT MYERS, Fla. — Franklin Park Elementary School. a staple to the Fort Myers community is getting torn down and rebuilt from the ground up. The school principal says the $53 million project comes at the right time.
The historic building opened in 1958 as an all-black school, and then integrated in 1970. It’s also where many Fort Myers movers and shakers started their school journey.
From Mrs. Tamara Hunter’s classroom of “fancy brains” to Ward 2 Councilman Johnny Streets to Dr. Shadreka McIntosh who recently opened a pharmacy in the neighborhood where she was born, Franklin Park halls have cultivated many pillars of the Fort Myers community, and a sense of pride for principal Michelle Freeman.
“We are the first community-partnership school in Lee County!” she said.
More than 60 years after its opening, the Florida Department of Education has approved the district’s plan to tear down the school and build a new one.
“My babies are ready for new! They’re ready for state of the art. My teachers are ready for it,” said Ms. Freeman.
Councilman Streets told Fox 4 over the phone he’s glad the school will get rebuilt rather than refurbished.
During a Lee County School Board meeting Tuesday, Freeman and community partners shared their plan so far. All but one classroom building and a gym will be replaced. The capacity will go from holding 615 students to accommodating 800 students, with six additional pre-k classes and community resources.
“People will be able to come onto the campus, and safely be separated from our kids and get their needs met as far as our families go,” said Ms. Freeman.
The United Way is another partner. They shared their hopes for the new building: an on-site health clinic, food pantry, a parent resource center and adult education. Freeman is hoping to hear what local families want in the new school, too.
“It is about the community as well as the school. We want to marry those two things by giving people a voice and be able to say what it is that they hope that we keep here at the school, as well as bring into the school,” she said.
On May 4th parents can share their input on the rebuilding process. Demolition and construction is expected to start next October. Students and staff will be temporarily placed in portable buildings off-campus during construction. The brand new build should open in August of 2024.