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East County Wednesday, Sep. 9, 2020 4 months ago

Church, school grow together in Lakewood Ranch area

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Woodland Community Church also expands educational opportunities.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Jennifer Passmore knew there was demand for more private Christian schooling in East County, but she believed Dunn Preparatory, located on the campus of Woodland Community Church, was simply out of space.

In its first five years, it had grown from opening to serve kindergarten and first grade students to now having 210 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

“Our plan was to add a grade per year,” said Passmore, director of Dunn Prep and Woodland Early Childhood Center at Woodland

The new school also will house church administrative offices. Courtesy rendering.

Community Church. “After the first year, we added three. It’s been a whirlwind. We have a huge waiting list of kids that want to get in.”

Woodland Community Church broke ground Aug. 18 on a 12,000-square-foot expansion that includes a second level dedicated to classrooms for Dunn Prep.

The school provides multisensory, highly individualized instruction through a partnership with the Brad Dunn Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting early childhood literacy, especially for children  with dyslexia and other learning challenges.

The addition for the school came as a surprise for Passmore, who had been resigned to the fact there simply was nowhere the school could grow. But when Florida Association of Christian College and Schools representatives visited the campus in October to reaccredit the school, they  encouraged Passmore to consider portables or an addition.

Passmore floated the idea of an expansion by church leadership, and a few conversations and design changes later, church leaders were adding a second level to a new administrative building being planned behind the worship center.

Dewayne McFarlin, the executive pastor at Woodland Community Church, said the church had already submitted its building plans to Manatee County when it decided to add the second level for the school. It worked with the county to make adjustments.

The building’s first level will house Woodland’s administrative offices and a multipurpose area for events and to meet the growing needs of Woodland Fine Arts Academy, a ministry that provides dance, music and other fine arts lessons to about 600 children.

McFarlin said the expansion project also includes construction of a 1,000-square-foot storage building off the back of the sanctuary and the repaving of the church parking lot, which is prone to flooding.

Construction is expected to take eight months, McFarlin said.

The project, which originally was $1.3 million to build the first level, has expanded to $3.3 million.

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