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Lee County School District adapting to growing student population

Posted at 6:13 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 18:13:11-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — With the massive population growth in Southwest Florida, the Lee County School District is looking at plans to build new schools and expand the existing ones, all while registration is open for next fall.

Ed Matthews has been the principal of South Fort Myers High School for six years, and in that time he says he's seen student populations grow substantially.

“You put a really strong economy in a beautiful place. Everybody wants to be here,” says Matthews.

That's part of contributing factors that District Spokesperson Rob Spicker says is only beginning to take off.

“Subtract the withdrawals from the new enrollments…we’re at a positive growth of 500 just since January,” says Spicker.

500 new students projected this year, but much more for the future.

According to the school district, almost 14,500 new students coming in the next ten years. That's growth of about 18 percent.

Here's a breakdown of numbers, by zone:

West Zone

  • 7,392 new students
  • 28% growth

East Zone

  • 6,474 new students
  • 21% growth

South Zone

  • 614 new students
  • 2% growth

Elementary School

  • 6,179 new students
  • 17% growth

Middle School

  • 3,794 new students
  • 20% growth

High School

  • 4,507 new students
  • 17% growth

Those numbers are broken down by the number of new homes built in Southwest Florida, which are as follows:

  • 71 students for every new home in Lehigh Acres
  • 37 students for every new home in Cape Coral
  • 29 students for every new home District wide
  • 7 students for every new home in Estero

It's the type of growth that Matthews sees every day when he walks through the halls.

“Anytime you get a new student, that’s a new relationship to build and really work on. But it’s a great opportunity, very very excited, and I’m finding that more and more of the families that are coming to us are just so excited to be in the state of Florida," says Matthews.

That excitement is something that he shares with those families, and reminds him of why he decided to do this years ago.

“Just seeing kids match their passion for what they developed here in South Fort Myers High School and then continuing that on for the rest of their life. That’s really cool, that’s really cool because in the end it’s not about just a student, or just a kid, it’s about community," he says.