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Charlotte County Public Schools board members discussed Monday the fate of the district’s oldest school with one option being a total rebuild at a cost of $120 million. 

It is unknown at this time what impact the cost of a new building will have on taxpayers. 

After Hurricane Ian severely damaged Port Charlotte Middle School last year, the district has been exploring options for the school, which was built in 1970. 

Construction was different decades ago, and the school’s air conditioning units were installed on its rooftop. When Hurricane Ian hit, high winds blew around the heating, ventilating and air conditioning units, causing gaping holes in the roof. 

Rainfall infiltrated the building, and the school was closed for several months while carpeting and other materials were removed and the building’s interior dried. 

At the school board’s workshop, school board members discussed several options, as the $2 million temporary roof installed last year is projected to last a total of five years. The temporary roof was covered by insurance, according to CCPS Assistant Superintendent Jeff Harvey. 

The AC units were repaired and remain on top of the roof. 

One of the options was replacing the temporary roof with a permanent one at a cost of $5 million. The school board also discussed option 2, a rebuild of the school that would incorporate the three newer buildings on the campus for a cost of approximately $80 million. 

Option 3 was the priciest, rebuilding the entire school for $120 million. 

School board member Kim Amontree suggested adding a career academy to the middle school if it is rebuilt. Harvey said the district would consider a magnet and/or career academy concept. 

The day after the school board’s workshop, Charlotte County Commissioners at their meeting addressed the future of Port Charlotte Middle School and voted 4-0 with Commissioner Bill Truex not in attendance, to lend its support to the school district’s eventual decision. 

Referring to the possibility of having a career academy at the middle school, Commissioner Joe Tiseo noted the school is on the border of the Parkside community. “What a gem that would be as a driver for that community,” he said. 

Turning to Commissioner Chris Constance, Tiseo said, “I’ve heard you say high school is too late to get kids developed into the workforce. The learning opportunities [the school board] wants to incorporate will be something we haven’t seen in Charlotte County.” 

Until the school board makes its decision, the county will be unable to put anything tangible in writing and include a request for state funding in its legislative agenda. 

“I look forward to seeing what the school board comes up with and to what extent we can participate,” Tiseo said. 

Deputy County Administrator Emily Lewis said the board could give a head nod to indicate their support, and commissioners decided to draw up a letter of support. 

At one time the Port Charlotte Middle School was designated as one of the county’s emergency shelters due to its location away from the water on Midway Boulevard. But its deteriorating condition caused the county to remove the school from its list of shelters. 

Constance said a rebuild and fortification of the middle school during a weather event would keep people inside safe. 

Tiseo said the school is in a higher zone and “in proximity to our constituency.” 

Even before the hurricane, the school board and county were already eyeing ways to upgrade the aging building. Tiseo said the county has an interlocal agreement with the school district which calls for a Public Schools Facilities Planning Committee. 

Tiseo said the subject of Port Charlotte Middle School was brought up back in 2018 when the school board asked him to meet with the school administration.  

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