Will The Beach School Ever Open Again?

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The Lee County School Board is hosting a workshop today beginning at 1PM. The future of the Beach School, and whether or not it reopens will be discussed. The board will hear a presentation focused on how much money the school is costing the district.

The Beach School has been closed since Hurricane Ian did significant wind and flood damage to the buildings. Children that live on the beach are now attending San Carlos Elementary. Parents drive the kids to the Walmart off the island where a bus picks them up and takes them to the school. The school board will be told today that the beach school facility suffered “mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems damage that are beyond repair.”

The presentation to the school board today will include statistics that show the cost per student at the beach school in 2022 was $21,243. The district average is $8,868 per student.

The board will also be told that in 2022 the beach school cost $1.7 million to operate, generated $404,470 in revenue, for a loss of $1.3 million. The board will be told that since 2018 the Beach school has lost an average of $1.1 million per year.

Twenty years ago, the beach school was at near capacity with over 200 children enrolled in the K-8 facility. This year there are about 80 kids in the school. As the beach has moved more toward a vacation rental community, enrollment has declined over the years. Parents and elected officials on the beach say when resorts like Margaritaville open, enrollment will rise again, as employees of the resort, and other businesses opening post-Ian, will need a school to send their kids to. The district is projecting that enrollment will jump to 123 by the year 2031.

The school board will consider four options regarding the future of the beach school:
#1) Stabilize the historic building and maintain readiness to reopen which would cost nearly $5 million.
#2) Restore the historic building and utilize if for the 2023-2024 school year which would cost over $10 million.
#3) Restore the historic building and add instructional space at a cost of $20 million.
#4) Restore the historic building and sell the property which would cost $3.7 million.

All four options include remediation and restoration of the historic building on the property.

The beach school was built in 1947 and is the smallest public elementary school in Lee County. In 1999 building #2 of the school was added to the U.S. Register of Historic Places.

Parents on Fort Myers Beach have held several meetings to rally together to try to save the school. They believe they have at least 3 board members that will vote in their favor to keep the school open.

Nautilus Earth Management offered to clean the beach school at no charge, however, according to parents on the island the school district declined that offer.

A final decision on what to do with the Beach School will be made in January.

Watch the 1PM Lee County School Board workshop meeting today HERE.

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