MARCO ISLAND — Islanders working for a Marco Island high school are sharing the work they’ve been doing to reach their goal of an on-Island school and invite the public to attend a meeting Saturday to further the efforts.
Volunteers have divided in to committees and are working diligently behind the scenes to develop a plan that is in the best interest of the community and its residents.
Research committee members have developed a plan for a Marco Island charter high school and are addressing a few of the issues that opponents have brought to their attention.
Proponents’ vision is for a high school utilizing a unique, innovative approach to education that is not currently being done in Collier County. The school will most likely have the same demographic profile as Tommy Barfield Elementary and Marco Island Charter Middle School, organizers say.
Currently when students graduate from the Charter school they separate and go to various private and public high schools in Collier County. At a most important time in children’s lives, when there are developing close peer bonds and friendships, they are being forced apart and often permanently separated.
The goal of the Marco high school initiative is to provide parents an option to keep students together for high school. As a group, proponents for an on-Island high school would like to see every student achieve their highest potential. The belief is that providing continuity, a strong foundation and community support to every student at Tommy Barfield Elementary, Marco Island Charter Middle School and the future Marco Island High School, will give students the tools to succeed.
The research committee has looked into several different options for a high school on the island. The committee’s research suggests that a charter high school is likely the best option for the Marco community.
Charter schools are open to public and allow parents to have more input into how the school is actually structured. For example, parents opted for an hour longer school day at the charter middle school than other public schools.
Many parents believe that this improves children’s academic performance and the overall safety of children. Many Marco kids spend between an hour and a half to three hours per day on a bus commuting on high-traffic roads.
That is a waste of time and interferes with children being able to participate in extra-curricular activities and/or getting homework completed in a timely manner.
Many of the successful schools the committee looked at are smaller than the 2,000 students that Collier County considers a standard size high school.
The committee’s research shows that there are significant advantages to high schools with 300 to 600 students. For example, smaller schools have lower rates of violence; improved and closer relationships between teachers and students; and a higher level of accountability and academic performance among these students at schools with relatively lower enrollment numbers, the committee reported.
The high school model that has been developed plans to leverage existing venues for athletics and extra-curricular activities to ensure that students who attend the high school have a well-rounded experience and the opportunity to excel in sports.
Proponents for a Marco charter high school feel it is unfortunate that the Superintendent of Collier County public schools, Dennis Thompson, is opposed to a high school on Marco, especially since he hasn’t heard the proposal yet.
Proponents of the high school say they would like to unite with Collier County as they progress with this effort. A highly regarded high school on Marco will benefit Collier County as well as the local community by creating jobs, increasing property values and retaining families, proponents say.
The volunteer committee understands the concerns of some and plans to address these concerns. For example, we have repeatedly heard that a high school on Marco will raise local property taxes. However, it is important to remember that when Marco Island Charter Middle School was built it did not affect property taxes. There are numerous state and federal funds now available for new schools. There is “absolutely no plan to increase taxes” to pay for this high school, the committee reports.
There is a meeting on the Marco high school initiative scheduled for 1 p.m., Saturday, at Marco Island Charter Middle School, 1404 Trinidad Ave.