Successful city-run school system continues to expand
A ground-breaking ceremony took place at Oasis High School Friday afternoon to kick off an expansion project for the elementary, middle and high school with the addition of more than 60,000 square feet and 30 classrooms.
The expansion project for Oasis elementary, middle and high school will be done by NDC Construction and Lawson Group Architects.
City of Cape Coral Charter School Authority Administrator Dr. Lee Bush said they currently have eighth grade students taking classes at the high school and fifth grade students taking classes at the middle school. He explained that the enrollment at the high school is growing, so they need to place the eighth grade students back in the middle school, which also increased the need to move the fifth grade students back to the elementary school.
Business Manager David Fiorillo said the expansion will provide the schools with the opportunity to clear the waiting list, which has had up to 400 students on it in the past.
The expansion will allow administrators to “put everyone back where they belong,” he said about the fifth and eighth grade students.
When senior Alexandria Mills entered high school, she attended classes at Oasis Middle School for two years before the high school opened in 2009. She explained that when they moved into the new high school their junior year it provided them with “another step towards leadership” because they were the oldest students in the new building.
The total cost for the expansion is $7.5 million, which breaks down to $6.9 million for construction and $600,000 for new fixtures and equipment.
Bush explained that the bond for the project will be issued by the city of Cape Coral, but the debt service is completely paid for through the Florida Educational Finance program’s per pupil state formula and from the capital outlay funds from the state.
Fiorillo said the project will be funded primarily through the Florida Educational Finance program and the capital outlay will pay for about 40 percent of the cost. He explained that they will have a lease agreement for the expansion with the city.
“The city issues the debt and we pay the full cost of the debt,” Fiorillo said. “The city will eventually own the building.”
Councilmember Bill Deile said the city voted on issuing the bond to cover the expansion during Monday’s city council meeting.
He explained that it is a good project that will complete the facility. Deile said that he is looking forward to seeing expanded facility.
Fiorillo explained that he is very pleased with the cost of the building, which is $110 per square foot.
“I think we are getting a great price,” he said. “It is a wonderful time to build if you can.”
The expansion will include 12 new classrooms for Oasis Elementary and 12 new classrooms, along with an “airnasium,” for Oasis Middle.
The largest expansion, of 32,388 square feet, will be a two-story gymnasium behind Oasis High. Fiorillo said since the enrollment has been successful at the high school level, it was important to include a gymnasium in the expansion plans.
The gym will have a regulation basketball court, along with 800 stadium seats, concession stand, lobby, locker rooms and three classrooms on the bottom floor. The top floor will feature three classrooms, five administrative offices, a community fitness center and an indoor cushioned walking track.
The new gymnasium, Mills said, will provide more space for sport teams to have room to practice. As a member of the varsity volleyball team, Mills said she had to share the middle school gymnasium with the junior varsity team, which made for crowded conditions at times.
Mills will graduate at Tarpon Point Marina with 25 other students this spring as the first graduating class of Oasis High School. She explained that having the new gymnasium will provide the students with the opportunity to graduate at home next year.
“I am hoping the big gym will leave a mark and leave a signature for us,” Mills said, adding that the gym will only make the “school stronger.”
Freshman Ciara Bennese is excited about the new gymnasium as well because it will provide another opportunity for activities to go on at school.
The gym, she explained,l also will help the school have a stronger sports presence because it will provide more places to practice.
The expansion will allow the charter school to add 30 new teachers and 600 students after its completion, projected for July 29. Fiorillo said when the expansion is done, they will have the capacity to have 3,100 students enrolled among the three schools.
“Over the next few years, I have no doubt we will fill the classrooms,” he said, adding they will be able to open up enrollment and eliminate the waiting list.
Bush explained that the permits have been going along in a fine fashion and they hope to have the construction areas fenced off during Christmas break.
“Hopefully, they will start working over the holidays,” Bush said.
An open house will be held on Jan. 22 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the elementary, middle and high schools.
Parents are encouraged to begin enrolling their students into the school system now.
Discussions of opening the City of Cape Coral Charter School Authority began in 2003.
Oasis Elementary School was built for the August 2005/2006 school year, Oasis Middle School and Christa McAuliffe Elementary School opened in August 2006 and in 2007 a freshman academy opened at the middle school so they could open the high school in 2009.