High school still an option for Marco Island's Tract K

Jane Watt, Marco Island Academy chairwoman, takes a pause during a press conference on Wednesday for a sidebar with her son. Looking on are YMCA CEO Cindy Love and Y President Skip Merriam.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Jane Watt, Marco Island Academy chairwoman, takes a pause during a press conference on Wednesday for a sidebar with her son. Looking on are YMCA CEO Cindy Love and Y President Skip Merriam.

Tract K is back in play for a Marco Island high school. Proponents for a charter school are backing out of a partnership to open at the Greater Marco Island YMCA in August 2011.

Instead they are the third group now with an eye for the property currently owned by the Collier County School District.

The Marco Island Academy charter high school first partnered with the city to open at Mackle Park and then sought the YMCA instead.

“It’s their third time out of the gate,” said Steve Stefanides, vice president of the Marco Island Civic Association. “I just hope they make it.”

In May, the City of Marco Island expressed interest in the 11.6-acre vacant Tract K.

A request for consideration to purchase Tract K was made by Conservation Collier in May as well.

The school district will not make any comments regarding Tract K at this time, said spokesman Joe Landon.

Tract K was deeded to the school district by the island developers, Deltona Corporation, in 1989, for $10 to set the property aside. There are no MICA deed restrictions on the property, confirmed Stefanides.

Jane Watt, chairwoman of the charter high school, urged the city and county to back-off from considering Tract K for now.

“We’ll take a wait and see attitude,” said interim City Manager Jim Riviere.

Marco Island residents Doug and Frances Enman recommended Conservation Collier consider purchasing the land to protect nesting American Bald Eagles there and prevent development in the Tigertail Beach area, they said.

Meanwhile, Marco Island City Council Chairman Frank Recker said he sought a park for the land also to prevent the district from selling it to a developer.

Friday, the Marco Island Academy requested the property at no cost while filing a preliminary charter application with the school district.

Watt cited state statute regarding surplus district property as the basis for the request.

“It gives the district authority to do it, but it doesn’t mean they have to,” said Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman with the Florida Department of Education, of the law.

Marco Island taxpayers could save a bundle compared to the $3.6 million price tag considered by the city in May, Watt said.

The district has until June 11 to make recommendations on the preliminary application.

If the school board declines the final application, the charter school may appeal to the state board of education, Etters said.

The change in venue from the YMCA to Tract K is to allow expansion from a maximum of about 400 students at the Y to as many as 600 students on Tract K, Watt said.

About $100,000 is needed the first year to purchase portables to house about 200 anticipated freshmen and sophomores, said Cigdem “Nancy” Schauer, a volunteer financial advisor for the charter school.

The school is to open in phases and be made up of about 70 percent island students based on the population of the Marco Island Charter Middle School, Watt said.

The Y and the school proponents spent months altering the Y’s expansion plans to accommodate students, leaders of the organizations said.

“We’ll go back to where we left off,” said YMCA strategic planner Ashley Lupo.

The school and Y will still partner to offer students sporting opportunities, said YMCA President Skip Merriam.

Meanwhile, Conservation Collier’s look at Tract K will cease until MICA and City Council make a recommendation, said Alexandra Sulecki, Conservation Collier’s program coordinator.

“The land only minimally meets criteria,” she said. “It meets the criteria so minimally, it may not meet it at all.” Enman said he might consider supporting the high school, but said the eagles must be protected.

“There are plenty of places for the eagles to land,” said Marco Island resident Bob Olson. “There aren’t plenty of places for the kids to land.”

Watt maintained that both children and eagles belong on Tract K and that the school would center their environmental protection and science curriculum around the eagles’ nest.

During a press conference held on Wednesday, Watt said she believed the school could build within 100 feet of the nest, but it’s not the case per FWC officials.

No construction is allowed when nesting eagles are present within 330 feet of the nest, said Ulgonda Kirkpatrick, the FWC bald eagle coordinator.

Eagles have been present for three consecutive years, said City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie.

Once the existing eaglets are able to fly, development of the land could be granted within 330 feet of the tree where the nest is located, however, $35,000 must be donated to a bald eagle protection trust fund and other conservation efforts are required, Kirkpatrick said.

Despite some challenges, Recker and Marco Island City Councilman Chuck Kiester are among the supporters of the charter school on Tract K.

Currently, Marco Island has an elementary school and a charter middle school, but high school students go off-island to Lely.

“It gets down to my basic wish, my dream for this island,” Kiester said. “We need to become as self-sufficient as possible.”

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Comments » 32

4marcoisland writes:

Tract K is the perfect location for a high school on Marco Island, especially if the land is given for free. What a wonderful way to save the taxpayers of Marco Island 3.6 million dollars. I hope the District recognizes the value this school will bring to Southwest Florida and allows the Academy to use the land. Since the school is open to all students in the District it is truly a benefit to all the students in Collier County. The Academy's team of volunteers should be applauded for all their hard work.

stepuporshutup (Inactive) writes:

What part of not being able to build within 330 feet of nesting bald eagles for at least 7 years don't you people understand? The middle school went through all of this already and were not able to build there. Where in the heck are you going to get these 600 students? You would be lucky to get half the kids from charter middle to attend and they have roughly 120 kids per grade level.

4marcoisland writes:

The quote in the article is wrong about the distance from the eagle's nest. Of course it is makes it sound more exciting. The school can be within 100'. Call the State and ask for yourself! Don't be so quick to believe everything you read.

factdr (Inactive) writes:

BRAVO, Jane Watt! I applaud your bold move!
It's funny how people come out swinging without fully understanding your decision.
It was my understanding that the reason to why the Y was set aside and track k is being pursued , is to have the necessary land, IN CASE you wanted to or needed to expand, NOT build a school to accommodate 600, rather, plan ahead for expansion, since the caliber of the school will most certainly attract younger families.
My friends and families are THRILLED to have this type of education to offer our children!! I say, it's worth the fight. Great job, Marco Island Academy Discovery Center, you have an enormous amount of support within the local community.
We should all join together to make this happen.

marcosupporter writes:

Wow, interesting news! Either location will be a great fit for the new high school; a huge asset to those living and working in the community and those looking to relocate. Nice to see progress is clicking along.

costarica (Inactive) writes:

That is great news!! Deltona would be happy since they gave the land to the school district for a school. It will be such an asset to our City! The school will be innovative & a superb education. I am confident the design of the school will carefully enhance the living space of the Eagles and not intrude upon them especially considering it is a green school.

pageport writes:

in response to 4marcoisland:

Tract K is the perfect location for a high school on Marco Island, especially if the land is given for free. What a wonderful way to save the taxpayers of Marco Island 3.6 million dollars. I hope the District recognizes the value this school will bring to Southwest Florida and allows the Academy to use the land. Since the school is open to all students in the District it is truly a benefit to all the students in Collier County. The Academy's team of volunteers should be applauded for all their hard work.

I couldn't agree more, Our two children attended T/B and the charter school. What a great spot for the children of Marco. The need for a High school will only grow in the future. I remember the same nay sayers about the charter school. Look a what a great gem we have in T/b and the charter school. Tract K is the best location and will cost the tax payers nothing!

captnjimbo writes:

Okay...the property was set aside for a school. We are going to build a school somewhere so that the 3 or 4 hundred students that go to our elemetary school and middle school can continue their schooling at home rather than being trucked north. Looks like the only problem is a poaching Eagle that in due time will find a better place to live.

The fact that it saves us 3.6 million, with no plan to utilze, makes this a sweet deal indeed and bring homes the vision of the folks that planned this community in the first place...lots of wins here.

stepuporshutup (Inactive) writes:

Why keep giving false hope to these families? Nothing will be able to be built on this land until they change the law regarding the eagles and their nests. If you want to get behind a cause get behind that s----- law and get it changed. The oil spill and the disasterous effects it's going to have to wildlife will not make it any easier. I hope they build a high school there some day. Mrs. Watt, be honest with the families that don't know any better so they don't keep thinking this is going to happen anytime soon so they can make other plans for their kids high school education.

TLeit writes:

Keep up the great work Jane!! There are always going to be people that will stand on the sidelines telling you why you can't do something. Its much easier. The future generations of children on Marco will always be grateful for your efforts.

ClearlyStated34145 writes:

This is a want, not a need. This ages old concept must be relearned in this current gimme society. (Wonder if they teach their kids the difference between want and need?)

And since it is a want, pay for it yourselves, on land you buy with your money. NO taxpayer money!

Don't be fooled by their hype. Most Marco parents are not interested in this limited experience for their kids.

And stay away from the eagles!!!

deltarome writes:

The only ones not in favor of this are those that live near the empty land and want it to stay that way. Those who purchased near the land always knew it could someday be built on.
Get real folks. Empty land on Marco of this size is perfect for a school.

costarica (Inactive) writes:

in response to ClearlyStated34145:

This is a want, not a need. This ages old concept must be relearned in this current gimme society. (Wonder if they teach their kids the difference between want and need?)

And since it is a want, pay for it yourselves, on land you buy with your money. NO taxpayer money!

Don't be fooled by their hype. Most Marco parents are not interested in this limited experience for their kids.

And stay away from the eagles!!!

To clarify points to ClearlyStated34145:

1. Taxpayer money is not paying for this school. The land was given to the School District by Deltona for a school. Taxpayers are not paying for the land nor the building. The building will be paid for with federal, state, & local grants plus foundations and donors. For example, the Gates Foundation gave out over 3 Billion last year and much of it went for schools like this one. There are Foundations donating money to top-notch, innovative, green educational facilities like the Marco Island Academy-yes,even in this economy. So the money is not coming from taxpayers.

2. Marco parents ARE interested in this exceptional school. Not sure where you are getting your information but let me give you an example. The volunteers giving of their already busy schedules for this school is already well over 200 people!!! It is not easy to find a volunteer group of this size in a tough economy like this one without tremendous community support. That figure alone shows the enormous support for the Marco Island Academy.

3. The Eagles will be protected! The school is an environmentally conscious school with emphasis on specifically caring for our environment. The Eagle will not only be protected but could be get an enhanced area and will be conserved.

No fooling here, just facts.

pageport writes:

in response to deltarome:

The only ones not in favor of this are those that live near the empty land and want it to stay that way. Those who purchased near the land always knew it could someday be built on.
Get real folks. Empty land on Marco of this size is perfect for a school.

You hit the nail on the head! If the people who live next to tract K, want to keep it empty, let them buy it, pay property tax and maintain it. Please don't expect the tax payers of Marco to do it for you.

SunBum writes:

For those who are unaware, when developing Marco Island, the Mackle Brother's employed the textbook Urban Studies "New Town" theory based on Robert E. Simon's Reston, VA to create a self-sufficient city where people would never have to leave their community. To not allow the use of Tract K as promised when we finally have an opportunity to be a complete "New Town" where hundreds do not have to travel 140 miles per week would be a breech of that original intent.

As for the protected Eagle upon the property . . . Paying attention to EVERY detail, Jane Watt has clarified with the head of permitting for bald eagles at the State of Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission that the Academy has an environmental component integrated into its curriculum which makes it eligible for a Special FWC Eagle Permit. According to the State of Florida, a FWC Eagle Permit allows for the following minimization effort: “Avoid construction activity (except those related to emergencies) within 100 feet of an eagle nest during any time of the year except for nests built on artificial structures, or when similar scope may allow construction activities to occur closer than 100 feet.” The delineated refuge will not only be a well-protected home for the Eagle but, taking advantage of a “teachable moment“, it will also serve as the basis for an educational benchmark on wildlife preservation for the school’s curriculum.

The real bottom line regarding the use of Tract K, however, is based on the fact that Marco Island supports the county’s school system with tens of millions of dollars each year. It has been reported that consideration has been given to selling the property for approximately $3 million. Who among us would choose to make $3 million from a school zone which gives $60 million annually over opening a school the caliber of the Marco Island Academy on property delineated over forty years ago for education? I trust that upon due consideration, all involved will support the building of the Marco Island Academy on Tract K as has been planned for decades.

The Mackle Brothers truly knew what they were doing. The cultural, educational, recreational, and social benefits for all residents, not to mention the boost to our sagging real estate market, are incalcuable.

u2cane writes:

Marco98, where do you think grants come from, they grown on trees? They come from tax dollars. Mr Keister wants Marco to be self sufficient? What the heck, are we gonna start building manufacturing sites and have wheat fields growing on Marco as well? What is next, a wal-mart on the island and we declare our independence like the Conch republic? We don't NEED an on island school, a few people WANT this school.

marco97 writes:

Cane, comparing wal-mart to a high school is a stretch, communities need certain things like churches parks and schools. We would not want our church or parks located 10 mile away and we should not have our school located there ether.
How anyone can be against a high school is beyond me. Where I grew up the towns with the best schools had the highest real estate values. Who does not want that?

stepuporshutup (Inactive) writes:

This school will not be built within the next 10 years if ever. #1. The eagles nest will not allow a feasible structure to be built. #2. The taxpayers of Collier won't allow the school board to give away a property that is valued at 3 million dollars to an entity that want's to pull student's and state dollars out of their school system. #3. This "green school" will cost a fortune to construct. #4. School age population on the island is declining and in order to get student population numbers they will have to import students from off of the island. Lely is begging for volunteers to help out with their school. Why not ask some of these invisible 200 enviro freindlies to stop wasting their time and turn a pile of what they consider compost(Lely)into a blossoming school. Now that would be a positive to our environment.

Joe_Btfsplk writes:

NO HIGH SCHOOL ON MARCO. WASTE OF TAXPAYERS MONEY. THIS SERVES JUST A FEW. TAKE THE BUS AND GET OVER IT.

ClearlyStated34145 writes:

Many wonderful Marco families will be at Alico Arena this evening celebrating the Lely High School graduation. The students are wonderful, intelligent, young men and wowen, well prepared for the next step in their lives.

dwbadger writes:

Federal state and local grants are tax payer dollars and in these troubling times should not be wasted on a school that is not essential. I keep reading about this tremendous school. How do we know it will be a tremendous school? That is a leap of faith. A school is only as good as the teachers that teach at the school and the passion they bring to the school. Won't there be the same travel time concern for off-island students that want to attend this new school? How will they get to the school? Won't busing cost more tax payer dollars?

factdr (Inactive) writes:

What I'm lovin', is that Marco Island parents demand better for their kids, than Lely, which is one of the WORST rated schools in the NATION!!

It is truly a disgrace. It is NOT for the people of Marco to "help" with Lely. THAT is for the self proclaimed "businessman", Thompson to handle, which clearly, is not capable of.

We the good people of Marco, DEMAND only the best for our kids and Jane Watt is on a crusade to insure that happens. Jane Watt will be as diligent with the hiring, as she has been with securing one of the foremost architects with the green design for the school, to crafting some remarkable affiliations for an extraordinary curriculum and adding collaborations that will provide a well-rounded education at a time when schools are cutting back.
How is Jane Watt making all this happen?? Ask her and she will tell you that people are interested in donating their time and talent for her unbelievable passion to create a world-class education for her kids, and students both on and off Marco.
Jane Watt is a leader and her passion for our kids to have a superior education, will raise the bar for what is to be expected from a public school education.

stupifried writes:

in response to factdr:

What I'm lovin', is that Marco Island parents demand better for their kids, than Lely, which is one of the WORST rated schools in the NATION!!

It is truly a disgrace. It is NOT for the people of Marco to "help" with Lely. THAT is for the self proclaimed "businessman", Thompson to handle, which clearly, is not capable of.

We the good people of Marco, DEMAND only the best for our kids and Jane Watt is on a crusade to insure that happens. Jane Watt will be as diligent with the hiring, as she has been with securing one of the foremost architects with the green design for the school, to crafting some remarkable affiliations for an extraordinary curriculum and adding collaborations that will provide a well-rounded education at a time when schools are cutting back.
How is Jane Watt making all this happen?? Ask her and she will tell you that people are interested in donating their time and talent for her unbelievable passion to create a world-class education for her kids, and students both on and off Marco.
Jane Watt is a leader and her passion for our kids to have a superior education, will raise the bar for what is to be expected from a public school education.

Puhleeeeeese - maybe Jane Watt should be the next superintendent of schools here in collier county, and then she can fix all of the woe's before embarking on a project that will cater to only the likes of those "special" students that live on the island. Jane Watt has too much time on her hands - on paper it sure looks sweet - but in reality - it falls right back onto the backs of the taxpayers - most of which do NOT live on "the island!"

stepuporshutup (Inactive) writes:

"Jane Watt is a leader". A leader of what? "All types of people willing to donate their time and talent". What about their money? Since this idea has begun, Mrs. Watt is the only original board member left. While some people call this determined and driven others may call it hardheaded. Moronic comment's like imlovinit's that the people of Marco should not "help" the efforts of improving their community High School are the reason why Lely has it's struggles. By the way, securing one of the formost architects to design this school is a great move on Mrs. Watts part. Does he expect to be paid? What do you think the formost architect is going to charge? Great idea at the wrong time and the wrong place. Want to build a private school? Then contact Fiddlers Creek. They have some property along 951 they should be happy to get rid of. It's centrally located for students from Naples and Marco Island and won't cost the taxpayers a dime.

u2cane writes:

imlovinit, what are you a walking billboard for McFakeburgers?

Tell me where you get your information that Lely is one of the worst schools in the nation? Did someone by the name of Watt leach this into your head? Are you that easily influenced by others? If so, go take a long walk.

Marco97, you live in Marco now and the furthest thing that people care about is a high school. Its a resort type of community and our community isn't one from up north where real estate depends on stuff like that. How many sane people buy 2nd homes in Michigan?

The school is a want by a few people, not a need for the community. We already have a great school that hasn't stopped students from making it to Ivy league schools like Columbia. If you want to know what prevents students from getting there its having parents more focused on s----- things, like building a school that isn't needed, rather than sitting down with their children and taking the time to make sure they do homework and learn values and respect. Parenting has a big say in how far your child will get in life.

marco97 writes:

You're wrong Cane, I have two rental houses on the Island and each time one becomes available I have people with children looking to move here because of the schools. If you own a home on the Island the value would definitely go up if a high school was built here.
I have been here 20 years and have children and if the schools on this Island were not good I and many other parents would be living somewhere else and the Island would be a very different place.

islandgma writes:

I do not live near Tract K and do not think this school is necessary. The population of school aged children change so the validity of needing this "want" is questionable. I originally suggested that perhaps property out in Key Marco be purchased for a school but I do like that idea about Fiddler's Creek. Keep the open spaces which are still open for a change and give the people of Marco that actually live here full time a break please.

ClearlyStated34145 writes:

imlovinit=ignorant, uninformed, brainwashed fool, which is evidenced by the incorrect statemant that Lely is rated as one of the worst schools in the nation. Educate yourself or keep your mouth shut. Do you have a student at Lely? I can answer that..no! It's obvious.
It's nice to see common sense, informed people posting about this ridiculous push for a new, taxpayer funded school, that we don't need, and the majority of us don't want.

captnjimbo writes:

It has become obvious in these posts that enlightened people that value education and children are working for the good of the community to obtain this school...and people that are afraid it will cost them money are against it. As stated, your tax contribution for schools is already being made through your county real estate tax. We also know new schools will be needed in the future. A charter school redistributes the money from one school to another...based on the attendance...on how many kids sign up. This school will not only attract kids, but it returns the money you already send to the county back to the Island. It also will stimulate our local economy because it will create jobs. A high quality school should also attract more families to serve the community and that will help return our real estate values.

My wife and I have 6 grown kids and 15 grand-children. All of our kids are doing okay(and they are doing okay because they got good educations and are industrious) and all of them located in communities (Naperville, St. Charles, Mystic, Canton, Clermont, St Paul...)that have excellent schools, mostly public but some private and they paid a premium to buy houses in those communities. I do not think, if fully informed and really interested in a high quality community, you can not be for this project.

factdr (Inactive) writes:

in response to ClearlyStated34145:

imlovinit=ignorant, uninformed, brainwashed fool, which is evidenced by the incorrect statemant that Lely is rated as one of the worst schools in the nation. Educate yourself or keep your mouth shut. Do you have a student at Lely? I can answer that..no! It's obvious.
It's nice to see common sense, informed people posting about this ridiculous push for a new, taxpayer funded school, that we don't need, and the majority of us don't want.

No, Clearly, I do not have a child at Lely!!! Never, I repeat, NEVER would I have a child attend Lely. But that's MY choice. I am not stopping anyone from attending Lely.

What is truly interesting, is that most of the people who are opposed, are rude, obnoxious, demeaning and accusatory.

Why is that???

Ned269 writes:

schooldigger.com
Lely rated 383 out of 557 schools in Fl. 2 out of 5 stars.
Lely rated 38th out of 65 Collier schools 2 out of 5 stars.

factdr (Inactive) writes:

Collier County School District ranks 38 out of 65.
I'd say there is room for improvement!!

Shouldn't we teach our kids to always strive for the best?? Shouldn't we teach by example??

A little healthy competition just may help Lely AND the district.

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