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Expansion options for Christa McAuliffe presented

By Staff | May 8, 2018

The governing board of the Cape Coral Charter School System was presented Tuesday with a handful of options for the possible expansion of one of the city-operated system’s two elementary schools.

The Cape Coral Charter School Authority heard from Daniel Flynn of GradyMinor & Associates on the Christa McAuliffe Elementary School expansion, and was presented with three options on how to proceed.

One was to add a two-story, 25,000-square-foot expansion with 16 classrooms with a $6.1 million cost. Another was a two-story, 12,000-square-foot expansion with eight classrooms, costing $3.3 million.

The third was to add two modular buildings with eight classrooms at about 8,000 square feet for around $1.87 million.

While the first two options would be permanent, the final one would only last about 15 to 20 years.

The two modular buildings currently standing, with four classrooms, would be removed, meaning that with 115 children on the waiting list, the last two options would easily accommodate that overflow.

Board Member Russell Winstead said the best option, with students waiting and the northwest part of the city growing, would be to build 16 classrooms.

“There is a need and a demand. We can fill half of them immediately. It would be foolish to go through this again in a few years,” Winstead said. “Why spend money now in modular? They are not a good investment.”

Board member and Cape Coral City Council liaison Jennifer Nelson said she wanted a spreadsheet regarding growth and waiting lists as she was not comfortable with the numbers on growth potential.

The system is facing a budget hole in the upcoming year and proposes to fill it with approximately $500,000 from reserves. The authority also plans to ask the city to assume some of the system’s administrative functions to cut costs.

In other business:

Superintendent Jacquelin Collins talked about some of the goals she wanted to accomplish since taking over in January.

Among the things she really wants to do is hire and retain quality high school teachers, which she said are tough to find. She suggested when they are hired, to give them hiring and longevity bonuses to encourage them to stay.

“We have gone to FGCU and FSW to recruit. The problem is most are elementary school teachers and we need teachers who are qualified to teach high schools because they are not coming to us” Collins said.

Collins also said she wants to hold a charter school town hall meeting to get input from parents and students on their concerns.

City Attorney Dolores Menendez said that could be a problem because of the possibility that members of the governing boards will interact, which she wants to be avoided for fear of Sunshine Law-like issues.

There is also a perception that the system is in trouble or that there is a toxic environment at the schools, an issue that must be rectified.

“There is a trend of rumors in the community that are unfounded. We need to get better information out because when we have changes, we’re under a microscope,” Winstead said. “We need to have the right data to support the facts.”

“We need to know the perception so we can tackle it and we need to pinpoint why high schoolers aren’t coming,” said Board Member Vanessa Metzger. “I’m glad when parents ask me questions. They are the best avenue to learn things from.”

The authority board also went over Collins’ evaluation process. They expect it to be finished in time for the June 12 meeting. The documents would be reviewed and submitted by May 24.

As Collins was named permanent superintendent in January, she will be graded only from January on.

Editor’s note: This story has been re-edited to correct a miss-attributed quote. The Breeze regrets the error.