Public Education in Southwest Florida

Make the most out of public education and available resources

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Public Schools

The public-school systems in Collier and Lee counties are working hand in glove with local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to provide a cradle-to-cap learning experience that begins with school readiness when entering kindergarten and continues through career readiness for all graduating high school seniors.

Both districts provide a robust roster of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs that prepare students for college or careers through professional certifications and specialization in fields such as aerospace, information technology and web development, and the culinary arts. Magnet schools provide an opportunity for students to hone their skill or passion. For college-bound students, high schools offer International Baccalaureate, Cambridge AICE, Advanced Placement, AVID, honors, and dual enrollment programs in each zone.

Technical colleges provide a host of courses that lead to immediate employment in an array fields, from law enforcement to veterinarian care to medical billing, with many offering a “career in a year” format. Both Collier and Lee counties are home to two technical colleges.

Class sizes: The Florida Constitution set limits on the number of students in core classes in the state’s public schools. The maximum number of students in each core class are set at:

  • 18 students, PK through grade 3
  • 22 students, grades 4 through 8
  • 25 students, grades 9 through 12

School zones, school choice, school assignment: In Collier and Lee counties, students attend a school based on two factors—their geographical zone and their choice of schools within that zone. Students and parents rank the schools that lie within the zone in which they live, and the student is assigned based on a lottery system during the regular registration period. In Lee County, schools located on the barrier islands (Sanibel Island, Pine Island, and Estero Island) are not considered part of any choice zone. However, students they may apply for zone or multi-zone magnet schools.

School and out-of-zone assignments may change if the student requires special educational programs that are not provided at the assigned school or within the zone, if the family moves to another zone, or if a district-employed parent changes schools, in addition to other factors.

If you are new to Collier or Lee county, contact the school district’s Student Enrollment Office to learn about the documents needed to enroll a child or children and important registration and school assignment deadlines.

School District of Collier County

Fast Facts

High school graduation rate: 91.9 percent

Statewide grade: A

Elementary schools: 31

K-12: 1

Middle schools: 10

High schools: 8

Charter schools: 7

Special/alternative centers: 1

Technical colleges: 2

Career academies: 31

Student enrollment: 48,000

Teachers: 3,120

Languages spoken: 104

Website: collierschools.com

(Source: CCPS Fact Sheet, Sept. 2020)

School District of Lee County

Fast Facts

High school graduation rate: 83.7 percent

Statewide grade: B

Elementary schools: 45

K-8: 4

Middle schools: 16

High schools: 14

Charter schools: 23

Special education centers and vocational/technical colleges: 16

Career & Technical Education Programs: 18 career clusters

Student enrollment: 95,647

Teachers: 5,751

Languages spoken: 133

Website: leeschools.net

(Source: 2019-2020 Impact Report and Florida Dept. of Education)

Charter schools: Charter schools in Florida are nonprofit organizations sponsored by a school district, which oversees the schools. The Florida Department of Education provides an annual analysis and comparison of the overall performance of charter school students to traditional public-school students based on statewide assessments.

The Collier County School District sponsors seven charter schools at locations throughout the county, including Marco Island and Immokalee. The Lee County School District sponsors 23 charter schools at locations throughout the county. In both counties, some charter schools offer a general curriculum similar to that of the public schools, while many others provide unique specialty or career education options not available elsewhere.

Dual enrollment: Students enrolled in high school in Collier and Lee counties may be dual enrolled at a local institution of higher learning such as a community college, technical college, or university. Credits earned on higher-education campuses are applied to high school graduation requirements. In addition, formal articulations have been established with local and statewide institutions to ensure that students receive credit or advanced standing if they enroll in these institutions to continue a career program. At technical colleges, dual-enrolled high school students with a grade of C or higher earn weighted credit and may also earn industry certifications.

Postsecondary education: Florida administers a Postsecondary Education Readiness Test (PERT) to eleventh-grade high school students, virtual school students, and homeschooled students to assess their academic skills, college readiness, and course placement. Achievement of a qualifying score on the test, or successful completion of a remediation course, is required for high school graduation. PERT scores are also used for college placement.

The SAT and ACT tests are generally accepted or required by Florida’s state universities and colleges. Several private colleges and community colleges in the state permit the substitution of alternative tests such as the COMPASS, WAIS, or others.

Technical Colleges

Recent workforce and labor studies indicate that two out of three jobs created between now and 2030 will require education and training beyond a high school diploma, but not necessarily a four-year college degree, so gaining a professional or industry certificate or license is a smart career move. Technical colleges operate under the governance of the Florida Department of Education Division of Workforce Development and by the local school district. Tuition is competitively low, and financial assistance is available. The colleges also aid in job placement. The programs offer a mix of in-class, online, and hands-on experiences, and many of them can be completed within a year.

Florida Public Technical College/Center System “Career in a Year”

careerinayearfl.com

Collier County

Immokalee Technical (iTECH) College

itech.edu

iTECH offers 17 programs in addition to courses designed for English language learners and literacy and for obtaining a GED. Campus storefronts include a cyber café and full restaurant, practicing medical office, automotive service center, childcare center, and cosmetology center.  

Lorenzo Walker Technical College

lwtc.edu

Lorenzo Walker Technical College offers 23 programs in addition to courses designed for English language learners and literacy and for obtaining a GED. Its state-of-the-art, 200,000-square-foot facility opened in 2009, and its catalog of offerings frequently expands to meet industry needs. It offers adult and community education courses.

Lee County

 

Cape Coral Technical College

capecoraltech.edu

Cape Coral Technical College offers 16 programs in the categories of agriculture, business, health, hospitality, and technology.

Fort Myers Technical College

fortmyerstech.edu

Fort Myers Technical College offers more than 20 programs in a variety of occupational clusters, from construction to law enforcement to cosmetology. More than 150 business leaders serve on program advisory committees.

Southwest Florida Public Service Academy

swfpsa.org

The Southwest Florida Public Service Academy, an extension of Fort Myers Technical College, is comprised of two separate public safety academies: The Southwest Florida Criminal Justice Academy and The Southwest Florida Fire Academy.

Florida Virtual School

flvs.net/homeschool/options

Florida Virtual School (FLVS) is a free online public school offering more than 150 courses. FLVS gives students the ability to enroll in courses 365 days a year and the choice to take courses online during the summer or school year. As virtual learners, students can chart an educational path around individual needs, hobbies, activities, and travel. Students who complete the virtual course of study receive the same accredited diploma distributed from any other public school.

Lee County has its own virtual program. Lee Virtual School provides full-time, K-12 virtual instruction that follows the school district calendar and provides access to many of the same courses available in the bricks-and-mortar schools, including Advanced Placement and dual enrollment, along with the flexibility of participating in electives and sports at local schools. Lee Virtual School is a franchise of FLVS.

Homeschooling in Florida


Homeschooling is popular in Florida, with the website a2zhomeschooling.com estimating approximately 86,500 homeschooled students in the state. Families interested in homeschooling must register with the Lee or Collier County School District by filing a letter of intent. Parents must also maintain a portfolio logging each student’s educational activities and provide an annual evaluation, which may include the Florida Standards Assessment, among other required actions. For comprehensive information, contact the Home Education Department of each district at:

Lee County: leeschools.net

Collier County: collierschools.com

Florida Prepaid Plan

The Florida Prepaid College Board offers several plans tailored to meet a range of financial needs. These include a 529 plan; one-year, two-year, and four-year plans; and a 2+2 plan that starts a child at one of the 28 Florida colleges at a lower cost and guarantees their admission to a state university upon completion of an associate’s degree. Information about each plan is available at myfloridaprepaid.com.

Education Resources 

Southwest Florida

CareerSource Southwest Florida
careersourcesouthwestflorida.com
CareerSource is the organization chartered by the state of Florida to develop, create, and retain a quality workforce system in Southwest Florida. It offers professional services to all employers and job-seekers in the county.

Champions For Learning—Education Foundation of Collier County

championsforlearning.org

Champions For Learning’s College & Career Preparation Program supports eleventh- and twelfth-grade students and their families. The foundation supports and recognizes teachers with grants and awards and administers the Take Stock in Children scholarship. Champions For Learning is the backbone organization supporting Future Ready Collier, a collaborative network working to ensure every child in Collier County is ready for kindergarten and every young person enters adulthood with a vision and a plan to accomplish that vision. It is also a partner in the regional FutureMakers Coalition.

Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida

elcofswfl.org

The Early Learning Coalition works to increase the availability of quality early-learning programs to meet the needs of families, particularly those working toward economic self-sufficiency. Its Child Care Resource & Referral is a free community service for all families. 

The Foundation for Lee County Public Schools

leeschoolfoundation.org

The foundation enhances the quality of public education in Lee County by increasing community involvement, supporting and recognizing teachers with classroom grants and awards, and providing local students with the College & Career Center. It administers the Take Stock in Children scholarship program; online scholarship application portal; and the Student Advocacy and Mentoring Partnership for at-risk students.

FutureMakers Coalition

futuremakerscoalition.com

The FutureMakers Coalition is a five-county regional initiative that includes businesses, nonprofits, school districts, and other organizations that aims to transform Southwest Florida’s workforce by increasing the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees, workforce certificates, industry certifications, and other high-quality credentials.

The Immokalee Foundation

immokaleefoundation.org

A nonprofit foundation that has worked tirelessly for more than 25 years to strengthen one of the nation’s largest migrant communities, with a focus on education, vocation, and life skills. It helps more than 2,500 students annually through its individualized Pathways to Success programs and administers the Take Stock in Children scholarship program. One-hundred percent of its students graduate from high school and go on to post-secondary education.

Statewide Resources

Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Programs
floridastudentfinancialaidsg.org

Florida’s largest merit-based scholarship program

Florida Prepaid College Plans
myfloridaprepaid.com

Affordable plan options that allow families to prepay the cost of college tuition, most required fees, and dormitory housing to lock in today’s college plan prices 

MyCareerShines
floridashines.org

A service of the Florida Virtual Campus: tools for students and adults to assess their interests and skills, explore careers, find out how to earn or complete a degree, and find jobs.

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