Island resident Jean Ann DeWalt opened public comments with concerns over a growing classroom size creating a higher teacher-student ratio and reduced materials budget at The Sanibel School.

DeWalt reported the district has increased classroom size from 1-18 to 1-21 instead of having a second class, and there is the possibility class sizes will grow up to 24 students. She added that her granddaughter is currently one of 23 students in a class. Additionally, the materials budget has been cut by $7,000 for the next school year.

However, DeWalt felt the larger problem is the seemingly low value placed on young children by the community that many families believe is becoming one of renters and retirees. “Our ability to attract and retain younger families that may contribute time, talent and resources, not just to the school, but to the community, is at stake,” she said.

DeWalt appealed to the City Council for the creation of a “task force” to investigate possible strategies to draw full-time families to the island in an effort to keep the school strong. She mentioned incentives, such as keeping the Sanibel Recreation Center open a few hours longer on certain evenings and Sunday hours at the Sanibel Public Library.

Mayor Ruane reported he had already been contacted by school board members and parents in search of a solution and assured DeWalt, as well as the public, that council is very supportive of the school. He said it might be a “wise idea” to come together for a conversation.

I don’t think there is a person (on city council) that doesn’t want The Sanibel School and, looking across the desk, many of us had children attend the school and some still do,” Ruane said. He added that there needs to be an understanding of the facts, budget and issues. “We also need to work out the logistics.”