LAKEWOOD RANCH — Leaders of The Pinnacle Academy, an East County school for children with autism and related behavioral disabilities, have been on the hunt for a permanent facility.
What they found is that home is actually where they’ve been all along.
The school closed on a nearly six-acre parcel at 6215 Lorraine Road Aug. 20. The property includes the school’s existing multi-building campus, plus acreage that is currently home to Lakewood Ranch Town Hall’s Operations Department. The purchase price was $937,500.
“It’s a big deal,” Pinnacle founder and Director Kirstina Ordetx said. “We are small-business owners.
“We felt like our hands were tied in terms of (making improvements as renters),” she said. “We feel more comfortable with being able to put money into renovations and improving the property for ourselves and the community (now).”
Pinnacle Academy has been at its Lorraine Road campus, former headquarters of Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, for about five years.
“We really were looking for a forever property,” Ordetx said, noting the school became fully accredited in May. “The program is changing and expanding a lot. We knew we were going to have to look ahead.”
Ordetx met with SMR President CEO Rex Jensen and Lakewood Ranch Commercial Realty President Brian Kennelly to discuss potential alternative locations. Although they explored several ideas, Pinnacle’s current location stayed under consideration.
“We all came back to what a great location this is,” Ordetx said, adding she was grateful for Jensen and Kennelly’s help throughout the property-search process.
Ordetx said she hopes, within the next few years, to build a larger freestanding classroom facility on the northeast end of the property, where the maintenance facility currently is located, for Pinnacle’s older exceptional students. Funding for the project, however, is not in place and the school may need to launch a capital campaign when it is ready to move forward with the concept, she said.
For now, however, Pinnacle will focus on improving the existing campus. While classroom interiors will remain largely the same, renovations to the building’s exterior will be extensive. The buildings’ facades will be transformed from their current rustic look to one of a Key West-style cottage. The structures also will be re-roofed, and classrooms will be equipped with new energy-efficient windows.
“The buildings are great; they just need updating,” Ordetx said.
Ordetx said renovations had been slated for the summer, when students were away from campus, but were delayed, because the closing date for the property was postponed from June 29. Contractors conducting future renovation work are familiar with Pinnacle’s needs and are making adjustments to ensure construction does not negatively impact students, she said.
Pinnacle Academy offers three primary forms of services — an early-intervention program for children ages 18 months to 6 years old, an intensive integrated skills program for children with autism and a program for children with exceptional learning needs, such as dyslexia and social anxiety.
Contact Pam Eubanks at email@example.com.
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