Fear of Fort Myers school closing prompts early graduations

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FORT MYERS, Fla. Most families know years in advance when graduation day for their children will be.

Shanell Harleston didn’t have that luxury with her daughter, Kaila, who’s graduating Thursday night from Goodwill L.I.F.E. Academy.

“This is the biggest day of Kaila’s life, and we can’t share it with our family because we didn’t have enough time to plan for it,” Harleston said.

The charter school on 5100 Tice St., funded by Goodwill Industries for students with intellectual disabilities, is in danger of closing amid financial trouble.

Students can keep going to the school until they’re 22, but once they earn enough credits, they have the choice to either graduate immediately or continue taking classes.

Harleston had planned to keep her daughter, who’s 20, in the school for another two years, but with the its future in limbo, she wanted her to get her degree before it became too late, even though her extended family won’t be there to see it happen.

“My mom lives in Baltimore,” Harleston said. “I called her and she couldn’t get a flight here, and she’s devastated.”

Harleston’s other option would have been to send Kaila to another school, but that’s not an enticing prospect for her.

“That scares me to death, because she’s not going to do well in a public high school,” Harleston said.

Before word of the school’s potential closing began to circulate, only one student was set to graduate, a source said. Now there are nine.

The school is hosting a meeting for parents Monday when a decision regarding its future will be made.

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