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East County Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021 2 months ago

Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy one step closer to becoming a reality

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With contract approval, Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy focuses on a location.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy is one step closer to becoming a reality in Lakewood Ranch.

The School Board of Manatee County approved a contract with the new charter school during its regular board meeting Aug. 11.

Southwest Charter Foundation, a nonprofit that runs eight charter schools across the state including Manatee Charter School, is partnering with Charter Schools USA to open Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy. 

Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy will be the second Charter Schools USA charter school to open in Manatee County. The other school is Manatee Charter School.

The charter school will be a K-12 school focused on science and health with a mission of its students becoming lifelong learners. Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy will implement the WISH framework, which focuses on wellness, innovation, science and health.

Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy will be the 14th charter school in Manatee County.

Eddie Ruiz, the state director for Charter Schools USA for Florida, said Charter Schools USA, Southwest Charter Foundation and the School District of Manatee County are working well together to be able to have Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy open in August 2022.

“This is exciting for us,” Ruiz said. “It’s just one step closer to reality in achieving our goal of getting that school that our parents and community want there, so we’re excited about that next step.”

Ruiz said more details about the school, such as the school’s location, will be determined over the next month.

“The contract was approved, but there are still a few more things we need to do,” Ruiz said. “Then I think our timeline will start working pretty quickly to figure out when we break ground. Then once that happens, we will be ready to rock and roll with an anticipated opening in the fall.”

According to the charter school’s application, a potential site for Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy has been identified at CORE at Lakewood Ranch, but other sites are being evaluated as well.

A lower school facility and upper school facility will be developed in phases. In the first phase, the lower school building, which will be approximately 41,000 square feet and one floor, will house kindergarten through sixth grade as well as ninth grade, according to the application. After the school’s first year, the upper school’s approximately 84,000-square-foot, two-floor facility will be constructed.

“As soon as we get the green light, we’re not going to delay,” Ruiz said. “We will move pretty quickly in getting all the things we need to break ground. We’ll have a big groundbreaking ceremony with community members and local representatives.”

Once a location in Lakewood Ranch is chosen within the next month, Ruiz said they can start searching for a leader for the school in October and November. A national search will be conducted to hire the school’s leader.

Ruiz said the leader of the school will be able to bring the vision and mission of the school to life while identifying community partners that can provide different opportunities for students.

“What we’re excited about as soon as the leader comes in is starting to find more partners that are going to add to the WISH concept that we have there at the school,” Ruiz said. “The skeleton is there in the charter application, but what really makes it come to life is once you start getting those partnerships and others buying into that vision and mission of the school.”

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