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Parents and teachers give input on the future of Veterans Park Academy of the Arts

Posted at 1:54 AM, Dec 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-07 01:54:43-05

LEHIGH ACRES — Parents in LeHigh Acres learned about the development plans coming for Veterans Park Academy for the Arts (VPAA) Monday night.

The school will be expanding to incorporate the old LeHigh Acres Middle School, but parents had a lot of questions about the project that still couldn’t be answered.

At the community meeting, the School District confirmed the old Lehigh Acres Middle School building will be open by next school year. They also said a new black box theater will be opening at the school in 2023.

But parents we spoke with are worried the two buildings might not still feel like a K-through-8.

"It’s okay to create a mega-school, but we want to continue to have that family aspect," said Dulce Martinez, who has a daughter in 8th Grade and also teaches 2nd Grade at VPAA.

Martinez said her daughter Elizabeth even created a petition signed by hundreds of her classmates requesting that the two schools remain connected.

"I feel like it would be one big family, and if we go to the other side while they’re here, I feel like that would change a little bit," said Elizabeth Martinez.

School Board member Gwyn Gittens spoke at the meeting. She said the schools will likely still work together, but under different leadership.

"It’s still a family situation, but for administrative purposes and managing the teachers and managing the students and all that goes with it, it’s going to be way too big in my opinion to have one principal over all of it," said Gittens.

But District staff said none of those decisions about how the two buildings would be used have been finalized yet. For Martinez, that’s frustrating.

"We didn’t come here to look at pictures on cardboard. I mean that’s all nice, but we came here to get answers, and we didn’t get any answers at all," said Martinez.

When the old middle school building opens, the District said it will be able to move kids out of the 16 portable units on the VPAA campus, but if student population grows, they could be needed again in the future.

The District also said it has plans to exapand the new LeHigh Acres Middle School to add 400 more students, and build two new middle schools in LeHigh Acres in the next 10 years.