FORT MYERS BEACH, Fla — After over 430 days, the doors of the newly renovated Fort Myers Beach Elementary have swung open, welcoming back students from the island community.
Many of these students had been commuting over 15 miles daily to attend San Carlos Park Elementary.
Jenny Tardiff-Paradiso, a parent and PTO Treasurer, expressed the difficulties, stating, "San Carlos Park was great, but it was just too far for us.
Most of us are here on the island and going back and forth, and Gladiolus between 3 and 5 is terrible."
Monica Schmucker, another parent, highlighted the time-consuming nature of the commute, saying, "The bus takes a very long time, I would say it's about 45 minutes each way."
Lee County Schools reported that 48 students will now return to Fort Myers Beach Elementary.
The renovation project, with a budget of $6 million, was completed within a hundred days of the contract approval. As enrollment grows, the school will expand further.
Schmucker noted the importance of sustainability in the new contract, "As long as we make sure that we make it sustainable, which we have a plan in place with the district and town, it absolutely will be sustainable. Plus, it's super important that we keep the school here."
To ensure the longevity of the school, a stipulation in the contract requires collaboration between the town, parents, and community members for community outreach.
This outreach aims to inform the public about Fort Myers Beach Elementary's enrollment. Post the fiscal year 2027, the cost per student needs to align with other barrier island schools, like Sanibel and Pine Island.
Failure to meet enrollment criteria could result in the school transforming into a charter school or facing closure.
An added touch to the school's renovation is the presence of flags. The United States flag, flown over the DC Capitol Building on September 28th, was donated by the Estero Daughters of the Revolution.