School rezoning: Naples High parents don’t want their kids going to Lely

■ A meeting for parents attending elementary schools in Greater Naples is on Tuesday, Jan. 19, in the School Board meeting room of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Administrative Center, 5775 Osceola Trail.

■ A meeting for parents of students attending Immokalee elementary schools is Tuesday, Jan. 12, in the Eden Park Elementary School cafeteria, 3650 Westclox St.

■ A meeting for parents of students being rezoned to Golden Gate High School is Wednesday, Jan. 13, in the Golden Gate High School auditorium, 2925 Titan Lane.

— Lely High School student Harry Stephenson, 17, will attend Columbia University this fall.

As he listened to parents discuss why they didn’t want their children to attend his school, he felt he had to say something.

“I have received an incredible education at Lely High School,” he said. “Lely High School has not determined what kind of student I wanted to be; I decided.”

But Harry was one voice in a room of 70 people, most advocating to keep their children out of Lely next year.

The Collier County School District held its second meeting Thursday for parents whose children will be rezoned next school year. The meeting, which was held at Lely High School, was primarily for those students who will be rezoned to Lely High School next year.

The district is proposing to rezone 210 students — 154 from Naples High School and 56 from Golden Gate High School — to Lely High School next year.

District officials have said the rezoning is necessary because of the class size amendment. Florida voters passed the class size amendment in 2002. The amendment requires Florida schools to have no more than 18, 22 or 25 students (depending on grade) in core classes such as math or English.

Most of those who spoke at the meeting came from the Berkshire Lakes neighborhood and many who spoke said rezoning was acceptable, as long as their students, who are currently enrolled in a high school that they love, could stay at their school.

Many parents wanted to know how many choice and out-of-zone students came to Naples High School and if the Collier County School Board could do away with eliminating choice and allowing their students to stay at Naples.

According to figures presented by the district, Naples High School currently gets about 50 students through choice and out-of-zone requests, a third of the students that are being rezoned from Naples High School to Lely. The Collier County School Board also voted in December to allow choice and out-of-zone students to stay at the schools they have chosen.

Bruce Buchanan, whose daughter attends Naples, said the fence in his backyard is the dividing line for the Naples zone. He said consideration needs to be given to current students.

“We moved where we moved because my daughter wanted to be a student at Naples High School,” he said. “It is a school she has been looking forward to attending since her middle school days.”

Buchanan, who owns a small business in downtown Naples, said Naples High School is five minutes away from work. If his daughter is rezoned to Lely High School, he said, it would be an hour trip that he cannot afford. He also expressed concern about losing property value in his home if Berkshire Lakes was rezoned to Lely High School. He praised Lely for its great students and Principal Ken Fairbanks but said his daughter still wants to be a Golden Eagle.

“There are two types of people in this world — Golden Eagles and people who want to be Golden Eagles,” he said to a cheering crowd.

Other parents were upset that the district is trying to implement a change so quickly. Kristal Snider, whose son attends Naples High School, said families need adequate time to prepare for this type of change.

“I bought my home because of the schools. There is a downturn in this economic climate, but I will put my house on the market. I will do what I have to do because I want to stay at Naples High School,” she said. “I want my son to go to this school. I want him to be friends with people who attend this school.”

Snider said if families had two years notice, they could make arrangements for their children. She said her son was on the freshman football team and had made friends at Naples.

“This is a negative for kids. It is not about Lely or Naples or Barron Collier. This is about finding a compromise that is fair for families,” she said.

But the district cannot wait to rezone, district officials said. State schools must fully implement the class size amendment at the beginning of the 2010-11 school year. If the Legislature agrees to put the amendment on the ballot for voter approval, it would have to be approved by more than 60 percent of voters to be overturned.

The Collier County School Board could also modify the zoning boundaries or agree to put portables on campus, which it initially rejected because of the $3 million cost.

The School Board members will receive copies of all of the comments made at the public meetings, which they will review prior to the first reading of the rezoning plan on Jan. 21. The board will make a final decision on the rezoning proposal at its Feb. 18 meeting.

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Comments » 5

Bagpiper writes:

It is what it is.....it happens everywhere. Deal with it

u2cane writes:

There are two types of people in this world, golden snobs and people who don't want to be golden snobs. Cheer that, your kids will be Trojans next year like it or not. GET OVER IT! Your probably the same people who voted for the class size ammendment in the first place.

OldMarcoMan writes:

If Lely is the best school around for Marco Kids then Naples Kids should be falling all over each other to get there.
Plus you can take Creole and Spanish in an open class format.

getreal239 writes:

OldMarcoMan - students can also take French, college courses, AP courses, play comptetive sports, join JROTC, and experience band with one of the finest band directors in Collier County. The list goes on and on.
BTW- did you know that Lely has the highest number of dual enrollment (college courses while in high school) students in Collier County? Did you know that Lely students score higher on Advanced Placement tests than any other high school students in Collier County? This information was presented by representatives from the school district at a meeting at Lely High School this past week.
There are lots of great things about Lely. Although there were many people at that meeting against their NHS students being rezoned to Lely, many other NHS parents are not against the rezone. The disgruntled parents are vocal, and got the press coverage. Many others are welcoming the change.

u2cane writes:

Let's face it, people tend to be about the flash and image. Unfortunately Lely has some type of negative perception that is undeserved. Truth of the matter is, what high school you go to doesn't mean squat if your kid doesn't apply themselves. Should they apply themselves, they can go to any school they want reguardless of the high school they attended. I know people want the best for their kids, but they don't always realize that the best is constructively putting their time and energy into helping their child do their best at whatever school they attend, not putting their time and energy into what school they want them to attend. Doesn't matter if your kid goes to Naples High if you don't do anything to make sure they succeed while they are there. You also need to ask yourself what example you are setting for your kid by crying and moaning about the school instead of telling them to apply themselves no matter where the district sends them.

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