Lee County school to cut grades, displace students

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FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Lee County School District announced it is cutting grades at a kindergarten through 8th grade school, which will cause hundreds of middle school-aged students to be displaced.

Many parents feel the change at James Stephens International Academy is unnecessary and ill-timed. Jovanka Domaso has two kids who attend the school: a son entering the 4th grade and a daughter who will be an 8th grade student in the fall. Domaso said her daughter had attended the school as a young child but now her kids will now be split.

“It’s the only school they’ve ever known. Period,” Domaso said. “For me to be at two different bus stops or have family members at two different bus stops, worrying about if my son made or my daughter made it, that’s what I’m worried about.”

More than 200 students will have to be reassigned to other schools now that the school is being restructured into an elementary school, according to the Lee County school board. Domaso said she does not understand how families and other schools will be able to adjust on what she considers short notice.

“They should have done this next school year so parents had more time to look into other schools, the school had time to prepare for more students to come in,” she said.

Superintendent Greg Adkins said the change was needed because James Stephens International Academy has been under performing for years. The change will give students more options, he said.

“This will probably be a very good thing for their students. If you’re a student, you have more course options that are available to you. More electives, more rigorous harder difficult work,” he said.

Adkins said parents should monitor the school’s progress as he believes they will witness a turn-around.

“I think what you’re going to find is to watch James Stephens over the next two or three years, is it’s not only going to turn around, but it’s going to be one of the most outstanding schools in our district. I really believe that’s going to happen,” he said.

The school district is now looking to open schools in the south zone for the students. That move will give parents more options. The topic will be raised at a school board meeting Tuesday.

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