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Growth pushes need for new schools

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Mar 31, 2022

The five- and 10-year projections show that the bulk of student growth in Lee County will be in the West and East Zones, presenting the need of additional schools there.

David Kaitz, with Davis Demographics, said they divided the School District of Lee County into 1,170 neighborhoods, which they studied, as they know how many students live in those areas. He said they tried to keep 100 students per area.

Davis Demographics looked at birth data, mobility factors and student yield factors.

Kaitz said the project findings is that 64,770 new housing units will be built in the next decade, 42,657 in the next five years.

“When we did this two years ago, just the beginning of the pandemic, there was an impact on housing, sales and prices for homes in your county. Right about March, April, May of 2020 things stopped and even went down. By July made up for loss time and just has gone up exponentially. The number of units sold and prices is amazing,” Kaitz said.

The 10-year resident developments was also broken down into the top five areas of Lee County. He said Cape Coral is the top with 20,571 new units, Fort Myers with 11,000 new units, Lehigh Acres with 6,294 new units, southeast Lee County with 5,309 new units and North Fort Myers with 5,142 new units.

Kaitz said the project findings also touched upon student generations rates, which again was broken down into different sections of Lee County.

“Still, Lehigh Acres is the highest generation rate of any community in your county,” he said of .710 for kindergarten through 12th grade. “For every 100 homes, it is generating 71 students. It was at .51 roughly. It has gone up 20 percent in two years.”

For Cape Coral it is generating 37 students, .374, which has gone up from .303 two years ago.

“The only community that went down was Estero. In 2019, 0.98, now it is generating 7 students in that area,” Kaitz said.

Districtwide, student generations rate is .290, which is up from .218 in 2019-2020.

The 10-year student forecast by zone has an 18 percent growth with 14,480 new students district wide. The West Zone will see the largest growth of 7,392 new students, or 28 percent growth. The East Zone will see a 21 percent growth or 6,474 new students. The South Zone will have the least amount of growth with 2 percent, or 614 new students.

That number is further broken down to 6,179 new students, 17 percent growth rate for elementary students, 20 percent growth rate, or 3,794 new students for middle school and 17 percent growth rate, or 4,507 new students for high school.

With the projections, Planning Growth & Capacity Director Kathie Ebaugh shared the five- and 10-year capacity capital projects. She said the first five years includes a great deal of building in the East Zone, while the second five years concentrates on the West Zone.

In the next five years, Ebaugh said they will be opening Amanecer Elementary School for the 2023-2024 school year, the Innovation School for the 2024-2025 school year and the Veterans Park Academy for the Arts expansion for the 2025-2026 school year, all of which are in the East Zone.

The five-year projects also include the Lehigh Acres Middle School expansion, slated to be done for the 2023-2024 school year; the Innovation School, middle school, for the 2024-2025 school year; two new middle schools for the 2025-2026 and 2026-2027 school year, a new high school for the 2025-2026 school year, as well as the Fort Myers Technical College expansion and the first phase of the Cape Coral Technical College expansion.

The 10-year plan includes a new elementary school and middle school in the West Zone, two high schools with one in the East and another in the West Zone. The 10-year plan also includes the second phase of the Cape Coral Technical College expansion, the Lehigh satellite campus of the Fort Myers Technical College and an expansion of the Public Service Academy.

“At the end of 10 years, not only will we provide student stations for every student in Lehigh, but we will provide a buffer for growth,” Ebaugh said.

Ebaugh said the northeast and southern part of the Lehigh community are where they are recommending future schools.

“While we do have four elementary and two middle schools in central (Lehigh), we have no high schools in that area,” she said.

When looking at the West Zone, Ebaugh said south of Pine Island Road, in the northwest area, will be vastly grown out with the need of schools near the Burnt Store corridor north of Pine Island Road.