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East County Wednesday, Jul. 13, 2022 4 months ago

Construction on charter school's first phase nears completion

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With an Aug. 10 opening day approaching, construction crews have the coming Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy on schedule.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Principals Cheryl Cendan and Bradley Warren walked the new "track," as construction crews around them hammered away at building the Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy.

The track is actually space painted on the floor of hallways where students will take time during the school day to enjoy a physical activity break, simply by getting away from the desks for a brief time. It is part of the school’s WISH framework, which focuses on wellness, innovation, science and health.

Cheryl Cendan and Bradley Warren, the principals of Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy, walk the new track. (Photo by Liz Ramos)

Seeing the lanes and arrows painted on the floor is more evidence that Ryan Companies and Red Apple Development have Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy on track for its Aug. 10 opening day. Every little milestone has been met with enthusiasm.

“Our track is in, our track is in,” Warren said with a smile on his face.

Walking through the school's interior, Cendan pointed out new cabinets being installed in an art room.

“I love the color of those,” Cendan said. 

Construction is moving quickly on the lower school, which will open for the first day of school Aug. 10. On that day, the school has 740 students — enrolled from kindergarten through sixth grade and ninth grade — who will show up at the front door.

Cendan and Warren stood outside the front entrance, looking at the "Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy" inscription painted in blue and green. 

They talked about how to make the green “Preparatory Academy” pop more against the dark gray background. 

“Whatever you guys want, we can make it happen,” said Rudy Krajcovic, a superintendent for Ryan Companies.

Cendan and Warren have been going to the school once per week to see how construction has progressed since Ryan Companies and Red Apple Development started the project in January. 

“It’s exciting every week so say, ‘Oh my gosh, look, now we have this,’” Warren said. “Everything they’ve done has exceeded our expectations. You think it’ll be cool, then you get here and it looks even better in person.”

Krajcovic said the goal is to have the school complete by mid July.

Warren said once the ceiling tiles are in the classrooms, the construction crew can begin installing furniture, which will be delivered July 18. 

“It’s amazing to open a new school,” Cendan said. “It’s a great experience.”

Cendan said teacher training was supposed to begin July 20 at the school, but Cendan and Warren decided to move training to Esplanade Country Club so the teachers and staff will not be in the way of the construction crew as it finishes the school. The school has hired 55 teachers and staff members. 

The school has a single-point entry at the main entrance of the school for security. 

On the left side of the school is a cafeteria that also serves as a multipurpose room as well as bathrooms and "learning villages" for fourth, sixth and ninth grade.

The right side of the school has a conference room and learning villages for kindergarten through third grade. Each learning village has a bathroom, which is required by law.

Cheryl Cendan, the principal of Lakewood Ranch Preparatory Academy's high school, says the breakout rooms will give teachers a chance to work with students in small groups. (Photo by Liz Ramos)

The learning villages have a large room that is a shared space with smaller classrooms attached and various breakout rooms that contain retractable wall partitions so the teachers can bring students together in small groups. 

Warren said the learning villages, which will be about 80 students, can meet in the main room for a morning meeting before teachers break them into groups to teach lessons. The breakout rooms can be used for teachers to provide remediation or to teach students who are above grade level.

“It fits our village model of stage, not age,” Warren said. “Whatever the kids need, we’re going to meet that need.”

Warren said each large room has a wall painted either green, orange or blue to make the environment more welcoming and energetic. 

“It’s research based,” he said. “We were looking at what will energize kids’ brains and get them working at maximum capacity and maximum energy. Your environment has to be filled with energy. We have an energetic environment and we hired energetic teachers.”

Each classroom will have flexible seating options, chairs and tables that can have their heights adjusted and more.

“(The classrooms are) not traditional looking at all,” Cendan said. 

Ninth graders will be able to look out the windows of their learning village to see their new high school being constructed next to the lower school. The high school is scheduled to open in August 2023. 

Outside the lower school, construction crew members have been trying to lay asphalt for the parking lot, but the rain hasn’t allowed the asphalt to be put down yet. Paving was rescheduled for July 11 and July 12. 

Construction crew members also are working on the drive through lane, which will start at Crossland Trail. 

Behind the school, a playground under a shade already has been constructed and turf has been put down so students can play outside even after it has rained.

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