LEHIGH ACRES — A Lee County School Board Member is raising concerns that too many students in her district are learning in trailers.
Board Member Gwynetta Gittens said she thought a new middle school in Lehigh Acres would help the issue, but she’s learned it’s not even making a dent.
But when she brought up those concerns at the School Board meeting last week, it didn’t go over well. One of Gittens' fellow board members raised concerns about her continuing to question Superintendent Greg Adkins about the trailers.
“I don’t like to see the Superintendent badgered, and I don’t think staff likes to see him badgered," said Board Member Cathleen Morgan at the meeting last Tuesday.
“Badgering the staff, badgering the Superintendent. It’s been two and a half years, and verbally and non-verbally I’m still told to stay in my lane," said Gittens at the meeting.
“Some of the Board Members and some staff feel like I just keep asking the same questions, and in one sense I am because I’m not getting answers," said Gittens.
Gittens said her questions lie in the numbers. She showed us statistics that show, in her district, there are currently 126 trailers at schools like LeHigh Middle. For comparison, there are only 51 trailers in the rest of the County combined.
“If it is so equitable, why don’t we have an equal amount of portables throughout the District?” said Gittens.
The construction of a new middle school was supposed to help with that problem of equity, but Gittens said she found out the old middle school is being combined with Veterans Park Academy, where 380 6th graders will still be learning in trailers.
"If the school that you’re talking about building is not touching this number, then why are you asking for it? Why are you using tax payer money to build it?” said Gitttens.
We reached out to the School District, and it responded, saying "We are in the beginning of a building boom in LeHigh Acres, not at the end. There are several schools yet to be planned and built in the east zone to meet the needs of the area’s growing student population.”
Gittens said, she's glad to hear there are plans to address the disparity. She just wants to make sure getting rid of trailers remains a priority.
“I’m not trying to be adversarial. I’m trying to be equitable, inclusive, and fair," said Gittens.
There will be a public meeting for people to give the School District their input about the new middle school. It will be at the Veterans Park Academy Star Cafe on March 30th.