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Charter school authority explores expansion

March 17, 2017
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

An expansion of Christa McAuliffe Elementary School could have serious ramifications in regards to traffic cafeteria space and the need for further expansion into other areas.

That is the conclusion the Cape Coral Charter School Authority came to during its board meeting this week at the school.

While everyone was on board with the expansion, and while it has received the blessing from the Cape Coral City Council as well, some questions still remain, such as how much should they expand and if that expansion will cause more hardship.

City of Cape Coral Municipal Charter School System School Superintendent Nelson Stephenson said expansion is a must, as if even one student is on the waiting list, it's one too many.

"I have great concern if I have any students waiting to participate in this amazing system," Stephenson said.

Currently, there are four portables. The school would like to replace those with a permanent building, putting in four to six more classrooms for a total of 10 to 12 more classrooms.

The city has plans to put in eight new classrooms.

A best-case scenario would include a room for music and art and even a recreation area where people could congregate. There is also limited office and storage space, which the system would like to see increased.

The concern is how many students can the school absorb. An increase of 80 students was said to be doable, although it would create much more traffic before and after school as students were brought to and from school.

If the school was to bring in 120 additional students, the authority concluded it would require another traffic study by the city.

"We need to see what's physically viable and what the traffic patterns will be," authority board member Russell Winstead said.

This expansion would also put more pressure on current areas such as the cafeteria, which also serves as an auditorium. That, long with a gymnasium, would also be on the wish list in coming years, Stephenson said.

"We hope we can work with the city to address the needs. Again, having one child on a waiting list is unconscionable," Stephenson said. "By not having the space, it's disconcerting."

Authority board member Sam Fisher suggested that a separate workshop be set up on the issue after the city conducts a site evaluation. He also said he would like the Northwest Cape Coral Neighborhood Association to get involved.

In other business, the 2016-17 fiscal year budget was amended. The budget has shrunk from its $30.1 million adopted budget to $29.3 million, a decrease of more than $854,000, as a result of fewer expenditures and revenues.

Reserves were also reduced by $731,000, though it is still well within the recommended range.

Also, Oasis High School student Skylar Hann put forth a proposal for high school students to become bus monitors for the elementary and middle schools as a way for them to earn volunteer credits toward graduation.

"The drivers can't do it alone. This will make sure students behave and remain safe," Hann said.

Driver Ed Wenning and Oasis Elementary principal Christopher Fennell gave their support to the proposal.

"It helps the morning run. The kids realize the need to do the right thing. They need to act the same way as in the classroom," Wenning said. "It's an advantage to have a second set of eyes so I can concentrate on the road."



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