Proximity plan to impact incoming elementary students


Image courtesy of Leeschools. You missed your bus: Redistricting will leave some students without bus transportation to school.

In response to the massive influx of students entering the Lee County School System,  elementary schools in the district will be implementing the Proximity Plan, which affects the process of how students are sorted into schools. This plan, replacing school choice, will go into effect in the 2023-24 school year. 

According to the Lee Schools website, their district “has been committed to better addressing system issues [student distribution and transportation] for the benefit of our students, families, and community.” 

The equal distribution of students to schools has been a long term issue within the district. With the idea starting back in 2020, school board members have been working to find a solution. The proposed and now confirmed proximity plan will improve communication between students at school, parents, and school administration. 

There are currently twelve elementary schools that families have to choose from for their children entering elementary school. With the proximity plan limiting where the child can go to school geographically, this will reduce their options to approximately four schools to pick from. 

“I personally, as a mom, I think it’s a better thing,” said Robin Marrero, a third grade teacher at Caloosa Elementary. “Then, we don’t have kids who live really close to a school sitting on a bus for an hour and a half.”

If a child continues to go to an elementary school outside of their proximity zone, they would not be provided with county-funded transportation options like bussing. This leaves families with the choice of providing transportation for their child or changing schools entirely if they are already enrolled in elementary school and out of their zone, should they not be picked from the “transportation lottery.” 

“We’ve had students at our school who have been in our school since they were in kindergarten, and they are switching to a new school for their fifth grade year because of the proximity plan,” stated Marrero. 

IB math teacher Macey Davis is experiencing the proximity plan firsthand, as her daughter is entering Kindergarten this year. 

“I live in North Fort Myers, so the biggest impact is that in my three schools, two of which are not rated very well,” stated Davis. “I really only had one option, and I was lucky that I got into the option I wanted, but anything that was a highly rated school outside of that wasn’t in my zone and so that would have made it more difficult otherwise.”

Students who were not already enrolled in a school don’t have the option of going to a school outside of their zone, while a student already enrolled is able to stay with the right procedures followed. However, students getting their own transportation is an issue for many. 

With the student population almost doubling since school choice was first established in Lee County, several new schools have been established. This leaves most residential areas in a close enough proximity to a school near them.

“Why would we have a kid who has a school within a mile and then they have to get bused to a school that’s across town?” Marrero said. 

Currently, even if a student has access to transportation, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t be late to school because of the extra drive they have to take just to get to school.

While the proximity plan is only extended to elementary schools, there’s a possibility that the school district will put this plan in place for middle and high school. Attendance and tardy issues have been at an all time high, which can be seen even at Cape High. 

“I’ve had high schoolers who came from Fort Myers and they were notoriously late every single day and so if they had to go to a school that was closer to them, they might have a better chance of being on time and then doing an overall performance,” stated Davis. 

Principal Christian Engelhart doesn’t foresee this plan having much of an impact on Cape High for the next couple of years. Nonetheless, the proximity plan will set a new era in Lee County and change the way the school system is organized for years to come.