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Old School, New Direction

Small but determined, historic Bonita Springs Elementary surges ahead

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Bonita Springs Elementary School

As daylight breaks through the towering oak trees in Bonita Springs, 354 students are making their way towards an unassuming 82-year-old schoolhouse. Recently restored and placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the school's most impressive transformation is taking place on the other side of these red brick walls. Students from all walks of life, 59 percent from low-income families and 49 percent from minority backgrounds, come together to learn and be a part of this unique education community.

Earning a 'D' in 1999, Bonita Springs Elementary School is now an 'A' school for the second time in five years. It is a Title I school with more than half of the student population living below the poverty line, and it was the only school of this designation to achieve adequate yearly progress in Lee County. Perhaps even more outstanding is the fact that half of the students here do not speak English as a first language. Principal David Short believes the school's diversity is one of its strongest assets. "We have a diverse student population, but we're all family here," he said.

Bonita Springs Elementary operates on a smaller budget than most schools, as funds received are tied to student enrollment. Business partners from the surrounding community have come together to provide supplies and financial donations when needed, leaving teachers and administrators to focus on instruction in the classroom. "We are very community oriented," said Principal Short. "We've built strong relationships and have a tremendous amount of business support. We're fortunate to have so many volunteers."

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Principal Short with his students in the courtyard

The volunteers from many of the businesses that have invested in Bonita Elementary participate as tutors and mentors during their own time. Teachers give generously of their time as well, arriving early and staying well after the school day has ended to help students with their work. Some of the teachers come from as far away as Naples in Collier County to be a part of the Bonita Elementary family.

The schoolhouse may be small, but the hearts of the faculty and students are certainly not. Each day they come to an historic building — eager and ready to make history for themselves.
For more information about Bonita Springs Elementary, visit http://www.lee.k12.fl.us/schools/bne/. To read the Naples Daily News story on Bonita Springs Elementary, visit http://web.naplesnews.com/03/09/bonita/d966134a.htm.