That’s when the Lee County School Board will meet, and whether or not the Elementary School on Fort Myers Beach will be rebuilt, could be on their agenda.
The decision has been delayed several times while members of the school Superintendent’s staff and a Fort Myers Beach ad-hoc committee work out an inter-local agreement. The main item in the agreement is increasing enrollment at the school which has been steadily declining for years. It’s been shuttled back and forth between lawyers for both sides over the past several weeks.
Hurricane Ian ripped through Fort Myers Beach and severely damaged the school. The School District has done nothing yet to remediate the structure despite having funds available from FEMA to do so. By law the district must rehab the school’s historical building
The inter-local agreement includes a plan to increase enrollment at the school, which includes children of employees of island businesses, recruiting students who live off the island up to Summerlin Road and San Carlos Boulevard and creating a magnet school with specialty curriculum.
The latest inter-local agreement states that if student enrollment at the Beach School meets the threshold that Fort Myers Beach Elementary can sustain itself at the same level as the other barrier island schools (Pine Island Elementary and Sanibel), the district will continue to operate the school. The annual cost calculation will be based on the annual cost per student report submitted to the Department of Education at the end of each fiscal year.
The ILA goes on to say that if the Beach School is unable to financially sustain itself at the same level as the Barrier Island Schools, or if the Town is unable to provide a financial contribution to cover the difference, the Town may assume the responsibility for the full operation of the Beach School by turning it into a Charter School.
What the deadline is to increase enrollment before the district throws in the towel has not been announced publicly yet. Before this week the district was looking for a 3-year deadline while the town was hoping for 5.
Enrollment at the Beach School has been trending down since 2004. The school board vote will most likely come down to whether members believe enrollment will increase in the next 3 to 5 years.
Here are the three options the school board will consider: