LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Safer bus stops and possibly a shorter ride to school. That’s what the Lee County School District says could happen if they switch over to school zones closer to students’ home.
Caitlin Tetrault is a stepmother to a high schooler and middle school student. She has a toddler who will start kindergarten in a few years. He’s only two years-old, but she’s already thinking about his school experience.
“I want him to have what I had. I want him to have all the neighborhood kids be his schoolmates,” she said.
Something she doesn’t want, him waiting for a school bus in the dark.
“I go to the gym at 5:30 in the morning, and it’s super dark,” she said. “My high schooler walks to the bus around a really steep curve in the dark, and it’s scary!”
She’s also concerned about the long bus rides for students who live farther away from school. Rob Spicker with Lee County Schools says reconfiguring school zones could ease some of her anxiety.
“For an elementary school student who’s going to a school much closer to home, their ride is that much shorter, and therefore their bus stop can be that much later,” he said.
School Board Member Gwyn Gittens likes the idea, but is hesitant.
“Yes, let’s do neighborhood schools! But first, there’s some things to do,” she said.
She says like consider schools that are already overcrowded, like Lehigh Acres Middle School, which reported having 18 portable classrooms last year.
“My question was how are you going to draw a circumference around an area that doesn’t have enough schools?” asked Gittens.
There are more schools in the works in Lehigh Acres, like Gateway High School. Gittens just wants to make sure they’re not jam-packed.
“My greatest thing is equity. I do not want to see us drawing parameters around portables,” she said.
Adam Molloy, Community Engagement Coordinator for the district says they’re planning the new zones with her concerns in mind.
“To make sure every single school is supported, is resourced, is staffed properly and that our kids have everything that they need at every single school site,” he said.
Another concern parents brought up is potential constant rezoning, the district did in the 90’s, causing students to switch schools several times. The district’s engagement director said they’re not planning to do that. They may consider it after five or 10 years, if necessary.
The school board votes on changing school zones in July. Next week they’re holding public engagement meetings. Here’s the schedule:
Monday, January 11 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.Dunbar High School3800 Edison Ave., Fort Myers, FL 33916
Tuesday, January 12 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.Cape Coral High School2300 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral, FL 33991
Wednesday, January 13 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.Three Oaks Middle School18500 Three Oaks Parkway, Fort Myers, FL 33967
Thursday, January 14 from 6 to 7:30 p.m.Varsity Lakes Middle School801 Gunnery Rd. North, Lehigh Acres, FL 33971