CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Lee County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier hosts town halls on the Middle School Enrollment Proximity Plan for the 2024-2025 school year.
The 2023-2024 school year is a quarter of the way over and planning for the next year is already underway.
"We have students that are all about the county, moving from school building to school building when they have a school building right in their neighborhood," said Bernier. "That's one thing is to try to create some return sense to a community school.”
Bernier tells Fox 4 that this proposal is a hopeful solution to the transportation issue the school district has faced over the past year.
Bernier also said what they have seen at the Elementary School level, which is already partaking in this zoning model, is helping.
Armor Persons, Lee County School Board Member for District 5, said they are now saving more than 15,000 miles per day with this new model.
Plus, with a booming population in Lee County, Bernier said the school had more than 100,000 enrolled students last week.
"We were having, last year, 3000 Kids late to school every day," Persons said. "We were taking buses, almost like an Uber service, and dropping them off and grandparents' houses and things. This year, we had to cut that down."
The newest plan allows parents and students to choose what Middle School they attend, but transportation will not be provided if they are not attending their zoned school.
For multiple parents at the first town hall meeting, including Kerri Perez, a major concern was what this looks like for their student who is in the special education program, or ESE, at their current school.
"I'm concerned on how they're going to handle the special education population," said Perez. "This is a time to reinvent and make it better."
However, Bernier assured Fox 4 that transportation for students in their special education programs will continue to be provided.
"We just can't afford to transport all of it, so if parents want to go to a specific school to a specific program, and it may be all the way across the county, then they're free to go there," said Bernier.
The next town hall is set for November 1 at Oak Hammock Middle School in Fort Myers from 5:30 P.M. until 7 P.M.
The plan is expected to be voted on November 21 at the School Board meeting.