BSHS Ready to Open Doors

Bonita Springs fi­nally gets its own high school

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - DEPARTMENTS -

An­tic­i­pa­tion. Prom­ise. Ex­cite­ment. His­tory.

All of that and more come to­gether in Au­gust as Bonita Springs High School (BSHS) moves into its built-from-scratch, $60 mil­lion, 76-acre cam­pus at Im­pe­rial Park­way and Shangri-La Road.

No longer will it be a work-in-progress sideshow for mo­torists on the park­way and In­ter­state 75. It will be a cul­mi­na­tion of decades of dream­ing, plan­ning and po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ing. Some in Bonita say it will be a mile­stone ral­ly­ing point for the city, just as an­other ed­u­ca­tional icon, nearby Florida Gulf Coast Univer­sity (FGCU), was for all of South­west Florida.

In­ci­den­tally, the schools share the same bright blue and green of­fi­cial col­ors.

Also like FGCU, BSHS started life in fa­cil­i­ties out­side its own cam­pus. BSHS got a head start a year ago in por­ta­ble class­rooms at Es­tero High School with its first fresh­man class, al­low­ing the BSHS web­site to over­flow with Bull Shark (the school mas­cot) news and school spirit well be­fore open­ing day. You can even buy BSHS gear such as caps and T-shirts, which will come in handy for new ri­valry games with Es­tero.

Not bad for a high school whose ini­tial head­lines told of site­s­e­lec­tion bat­tles and cost-es­ti­mate mis­cues.

That is in the dis­tant rearview mir­ror now as prin­ci­pal Jeff Estes Jr., 38, guides con­struc­tion, staff, stu­dents and their fam­i­lies to­ward the fin­ish line—adding a sopho­more class this year and ju­nior and se­nior classes over the fol­low­ing two years. That will take BSHS to nearly 1,750 stu­dents, com­pared with the 2017-18 fresh­man class of 250. BSHS will open Au­gust 10 with a staff of 75 to 80, Estes re­ports.

Over­worked? Estes thrives on it, and he ex­pects his teach­ers to share the chal­lenge. He says he was es­pe­cially picky in in­ter­view­ing the first BSHS teach­ers hired, look­ing for ap­pli­cants ea­ger to cre­ate new tra­di­tions and ac­cept af­ter­school as­sign­ments such as tu­tor­ing or clubs, to serve as role mod­els. All are cer­ti­fied in the sub­jects they teach.

Estes pushes the en­ve­lope with an idea for help­ing stu­dents who for­feit sports and clubs be­cause they have to head home im­me­di­ately af­ter classes to tend to their lit­tle broth­ers and sis­ters. He thinks aloud about invit­ing the small fry to the BSHS cam­pus for read­ing lessons with teach­ers and vol­un­teers while older sib­lings join class­mates.

He also thinks big about the school’s spe­cialty cur­ricu­lum, which in­cludes fly­ing and fix­ing air­planes and learn­ing the lo­cally vi­tal heat­ing/air con­di­tion­ing trades. BSHS will blaze trails with a joint pro­gram with FGCU in which stu­dents can earn up to 62 cred­its—about two years’ worth—be­fore leav­ing BSHS and ap­ply them to­ward de­grees at FGCU or other state uni­ver­si­ties. Other aca­demic em­phases are to in­clude health care, agribusi­ness, com­put­ers and ed­u­ca­tion.

Will BSHS im­pact lo­cal real es­tate val­ues? Bonita Mayor Peter Sim­mons, who is a real es­tate sales pro­fes­sional, says only: “We shall see.”

When asked about spe­cial plans for the grand open­ing, Estes keeps the fo­cus on stu­dents and their fam­i­lies. He plans to let those

who spent 2017-18 in porta­bles to get the first sneak pre­view, fol­lowed by a pub­lic open house a week later.

Estes brings deep roots in Lee County pub­lic schools, reach­ing to his own school days at Es­tero High, where he also got his first teach­ing as­sign­ment and once served as as­sis­tant prin­ci­pal. “Jeff is per­fect for this job,” says Lee Schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Gregory Ad­kins. “He’s a great leader, ed­u­ca­tor and mo­ti­va­tor.”

As a 24-year res­i­dent of the Bonita area, he can ap­pre­ci­ate the his­tor­i­cal mile­stone as­pect of BSHS—the first new high school in Lee County since Is­land Coast opened in Cape Coral a decade ago.

Fol­low­ing are com­ments from some lo­cal lead­ers on the com­mu­nity’s new high school.

Bonita Springs Mayor Peter Sim­mons: “We are ex­tremely proud and ex­cited to fi­nally see a high school in Bonita Springs! The high school will bring nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits to our area. There will be new job op­por­tu­ni­ties for teach­ers, ad­min­is­tra­tors and sup­port staff and a cen­tral­ized lo­ca­tion for Bonita’s youth that will shorten Bonita Springs par­ents’ com­mutes. An­other im­por­tant ben­e­fit will be a fur­ther sense of com­mu­nity pride coming to fruition and unit­ing us for years to come. To­gether we will cheer on high school sports, beam with pride at grad­u­a­tions and have our stu­dents rep­re­sent the City of Bonita Springs in many facets. The pride is con­ta­gious as we al­ready feel proud of the Bonita Springs High School, and the doors haven’t opened yet!

“Fear the fin! The Bonita Springs Bull Sharks will be here soon.”

Tif­fany Es­pos­ito, pres­i­dent and CEO of the Bonita Springs Area Cham­ber of Com­merce: “The new high school will con­tinue to give Lee County stu­dents world-class ed­u­ca­tion and ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ed­u­ca­tion is the cor­ner­stone to a healthy and vi­brant work­force and vi­tal to the fu­ture suc­cess of our com­mu­nity.’’

Char­lie Strader, for­mer pres­i­dent of the Bonita Springs His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety: “I think it will be a pos­i­tive for build­ing a stronger sense of com­mu­nity—mak­ing more peo­ple feel a part of Bonita Springs.”

Bon­nie Whit­te­more, cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Bonita Springs His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety: “Since the 1890s, peo­ple in Bonita Springs have known that a school was key to progress. Found­ing fam­i­lies built its first school—a log hut with a dirt floor and pal­metto roof. In the 1920s, bonds were sold to build a mod­ern brick build­ing, which is still in use as an ele­men­tary school and listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places.

“Con­struc­tion of a high school in Bonita Springs is long over­due. The stu­dents are so en­thu­si­as­tic, and it will give the city a stronger iden­tity go­ing for­ward.” Jeff Ly­tle is the re­tired ed­i­to­rial page edi­tor and TV host from the Naples Daily

News. He now lives in Bonita Springs.

From top: Bonita Springs High School under con­struc­tion one year ago; doors will open at the new school in Au­gust.

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