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A public information meeting for a proposed 260-student, 14,700-square-foot school at the southwest corner of Corkscrew and River Ranch roads took place at a Nov. 14 Estero Planning, Zoning and Design Board meeting. Coastal Palms Academy is proposed for a 3.84-acre site at 9600 Corkscrew Road across from the Villages at Country Creek community.  

While the project is described as a day care/preschool, developer Derek Burkholder described the facility as a day school for young learners. “We’re building a preschool, a day school, an educational facility,” he said. “The word day care is so taboo in our world. I just don’t like it, so I refer to it as a preschool, but it’s under the use code of day care.”  

Burkholder and his sister, Emma Duffy, have a combined 30 years of experience in early education. “We pledge to create a safe learning environment that encourages critical thinking and problem-solving creativity,” Duffy said. “We truly want to empower young learners. Our day school is a place where curiosities can be celebrated, and students are inspired to explore and embrace the joy and journey of learning.” 

The school would have a maximum of 260 students from infant to preschool age and a 24-person staff. An outdoor play and learning area with a 5- to 6-foot fence also is proposed on-site.  

A roll formed galvanized steel roofing cover with pronounced and extended roof lines to provide shaded areas for outdoor play are proposed, along with the school being wrapped in a wide-band rainscreen core with protruded wings of horizontal-banded siding. 

Board member Michael Sheeley complimented the design and architecture, but asked for the developer to delineate what parts of the design fit in with the Florida vernacular part of the village’s code so the project will be easier to review.  

Chairman Scotty Wood reinforced Sheeley’s sentiments. “We need some detail on that,” Wood said. “We really don’t talk about contemporary Florida vernacular in the land development code. We talk about Florida vernacular, period. If you’re moving into the so-called contemporary arena, that’s not an arena that we have, so we need some connection.” 

The facility is planned for the Corkscrew frontage of the property, with a second building that will be developed in the future on the south end of the property. The 63 parking spaces proposed on-site left board member Jim Wallace concerned whether the site would have sufficient parking.  

“Parents drop off throughout the day, they don’t drop off all at once,” Burkholder said. “They spend probably 3 minutes dropping off and 4 minutes picking up. They’re pretty much in and out.” 

Wallace remained skeptical about the parking situation, while other board members, such as Anthony Gargano, expressed concern with trip generation.  

“The traffic study is going to be a very critical, critical part of your application,” he said. 

Estero resident Roy Hyman shared concern with traffic congestion on River Ranch and Corkscrew roads. 

“I think it’s a great product, looks like a beautiful building, just not on this road,” he said. “River Ranch Road is a two-lane road and has a high school down the street, where cars back up. We have a drainage swale along River Ranch Road. It’s only a two-lane road and there’s no way for widening. Traffic will be impossible to maneuver, not only for us, but for the people that use this facility.” 

The village received five e-comments in favor of the project and two e-comments expressing concern with traffic, speeding and flooding in the area.  

The developer intends to have a model of the building in time for the next round of presentations. No vote is taken at public information meetings, as the project is still in its preliminary stage.

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