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Lee County School Board moves forward with Proximity Plan

Posted at 1:08 AM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-13 14:03:49-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Lee County School District is taking steps to shape the future of student enrollment.

It’s through the use of a new proximity plan, shaping the future of schools within the district by laying out which students can be registered where. It all has to do with enrollment zones.

The board unanimously approved this proximity plan that will see enrollment zones change. They've also made one thing clear— it's to help with ongoing school bus transportation issues.

While enrollment zones have changed, the school district says the process has not. Despite several parents, who were clearly frustrated with this proposed proximity plan at the school board meeting Tuesday night.

“We’re forced to drive them every day, two ways back and forth," said one parent, talking about driving their children to school. "Which is really difficult with the bus situation. They literally can’t ride the bus.”

Leaders unanimously passed it.

Fox 4 speaking with a district representative, breaking down the plan and its impacts on students and their parents.

  • If you're a student at a school that is in your new zone, you live in that zone and your school is in that zone; you have nothing to worry about.
  • If you want to change schools; your options are within the smaller, new zone. Meaning you could go from 17 schools in your zone to maybe 4.
  • You can also stay at a school that is not in your zone. Still gives you the option of school choice, but in that case, there will be no buses. You will have to get your child there.

Most of the parents at the meeting Tuesday were against the plan. Their concerns with the cost of driving their students to school each day.

“The most important thing, for me, is to keep the family, the community that they’re building together," said another parent. "We want these children to grow with friends making friends.

But the district says the current bus plan is set up to serve 60,000 students.. But they are now at 100,000.

The district says this new plan will help significantly reduce school bus wait times and ride times.

“Our system is broken- there's no question about it," said Christopher Bernier, Superintendent of Lee County School District. "We need to do something different or 3,000 children who are going to be late every day right now is going to increase exponentially. So we've got to do something different and I appreciate the board's direction with that.”

“The reason we're doing this is because we can't sustain it," said Armor Persons, a school board member. "Will it save some money? Yes. Will we put that money back into the kids' education? Absolutely.”

The district says this year will be for elementary students only. Next year it will begin for middle schools.

It's also important to note open enrollment starts soon. Students entering K-5 will have to enter into a lottery of ranking schools. Parents can rank their preferred schools on the focus parent portal on the district's website.

As for what the district says to people who might say the district is trying to limit access to schools for all children? They say all of their schools offer the same educational opportunities.