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Lee County will need 16 new schools to keep up with population growth

Posted at 8:48 PM, Aug 17, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-17 20:48:11-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — As Lee County continues to grow and change, so does its public school system.

Looking ten years into the future, Superintendent Dr. Christopher Bernier said the district will need 16 new schools to keep up with the growth... and a lot of money.

In the last 10 years, Lee County has already added 27 thousand students.

“We’re in a good spot as a school district as we stand right now," said Dr. Bernier. "If we just leave us where we are, you’ll see the student population starts to outgrow the number of seats we have.”

That growth in students is what inspired Dr. Bernier's 2024 Capital Plan. He said if the district does nothing to address the population boom, there will be problems.

“And what that means is additional portables... which will mean making some difficult decisions in some communities that certain schools aren’t available," Bernier said.

He expects 23 thousand new students to come to Lee County in the next 10 years. The Capital Plan calls to build 16 new schools, mostly in the fast-growing areas of Cape Coral and Lehigh Acres.

But that's just one part of the concern. Bernier said the district also needs to maintain older schools.

“Some buildings, like Franklin Park Elementary, may have outlived their lifespan and those children deserve first class environments as well," he said.

To pay for all of these changes, the district will need to scrape up more than $2.5 billion.

Fox 4's Briana Brownlee took to social media and asked Lee County residents: What do you think about the potential plan?

While some were excited to hear about the changes, others questioned how the district would find enough employees to serve those new schools.

When contacted about these concerns, the Lee County School District provided the following statement:

“We’ll continue our year-round efforts to hire teachers and plan strategies for each school as they are approved.”

The district is reminding everyone that this is only a suggested plan that is subject to change in the future.