Things going smoothly at Island Coast, principal says; 1,100 students are getting acclimated
It has been one week since Cape Coral’s newest high school, Island Coast, opened its doors to students. Although the school has only been officially open for five days, it has battled the effects of a tropical storm, acted as a shelter for local residents and is now initiating the district’s first Academy of Natural Resources.
On Monday, Principal Pete Bohatch said the school has enrolled approximately 1,100 students, including 400 who attended Island Coast when it was a collection of portables and the 130 who have been accepted into the academy.
Other than dealing with Tropical Storm Fay, Bohatch said the year began smoothly.
“It went smooth, the kids seemed happy. They are thrilled with the building,” he said.
The 400 students who attended the transitional Island Coast were especially impressed with the new building, Bohatch said. On Sept. 12, before the Gators’ first home football game against Evangelical Christian, students will have their first pep rally.
Last week the building acted as a storm shelter during Fay. The storm carried an average wind speed of approximately 60 mph, and there were concerns that that would damage the new school in its first week of operation.
“We were a CERT-run shelter. Not a bit of damage, actually the grass is greener,” he said. “The football field is looking great.”
Last Tuesday, when Fay was expected to make landfall, the high school held between 60 to 70 evacuees. Overall, the school is equipped to hold 300 evacuees.
“They stayed in the gym and we fed them in the cafeteria,” said Bohatch.
He said the Lee County Emergency Operations Center was well organized. Evacuees checked in through the lobby and stayed in the gym where the CERT team had purchased tarps and covered the new gym floor.
“It was a nice trial run for a small group of people,” he said.
In fact, the rain from Fay may have been beneficial for the school’s athletic fields which feature a new type of grass being used for the first time in the school district. The new grass, called “celebration grass,” has been used in golf courses around Naples, explained Scott Reichenbacher, project manager for the district’s Construction Services.
“It is drought tolerant and extremely forgiving and recovers faster than standard Bermuda grass,” said Reichenbacher. “If it works well in the dry season, than we may switch over.”
He explained that athletic fields need to be stripped at the end of each season, and if the celebration grass is successful it would be substituted for the standard Bermuda grass.
The school’s academy is also up and running. Bohatch said there are tilapia in the large tanks and cichlids in the smaller ones. Academy students have spent the week being introduced to the equipment.
As the year progresses, students in the academy will be raising fish and growing hydroponic plants.