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Sarasota Coastal Academy School Director Katherine Lynn, Molly Renner, director of Student Services, and operations and facility Manager Tony Akentis are eager to educate children with special needs.
East County Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012 5 years ago

New school for children with special needs opens

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

LAKEWOOD RANCH — A new private school for special-needs children has opened in Lakewood Ranch.

Sarasota Coastal Academy, which opened Aug. 20, at a 10,000-square-foot facility at 5581 Broadcast Court, Sarasota, is a private, faith-based non-profit school for children with disabilities — anything from cerebral palsy, to Down syndrome to mild autism, or other learning disabilities.

“We’re not a day care,” Tony Akentis, operations and facility manager, said. “Our vision is (to educate).”

Akentis and his team — teachers Molly Renner and Katherine Lynn — recognize that children with special needs may not be able to learn everything that a “typical” child their age can, but many of their students can accomplish more than they and their families have previously been told.

“We want a school where the children feel loved and they feel believed in,” said Renner, director of student services.

Renner has always had a passion for teaching children with special needs but can better relate to their struggles after suffering a heart attack two years ago.

After being deprived of oxygen for 25 minutes, Renner’s recovery was life changing. She had to re-learn basic motor functions and to walk and talk.

“I understand what it feels like not being able to communicate,” she said. “I want (the children) to know just because they have a disability doesn’t mean someone has given up on them. They can work on their disability.”

Lynn, the school’s director, agreed, noting her decision to help start Coastal Academy stemmed largely from the “no-can-do” attitude she heard from other professionals in the special-education community. Given the right setting and tools, she said, many children can overcome — at least partially — the labels placed on them.

Lynn said the new school uses a research-based curriculum, small class sizes and direct instruction to help children reach their full potential. Children spend the mornings immersed in core subjects and then spend the afternoons in physical education, art, music, Christian living and life-skills classes, Lynn said.

Rooms and hallways are spacious to accommodate wheelchairs and other needs students may have, as well.

The school participates in the McKay Scholarship Program, as well as Step Up for Students.

Tuition costs vary according to the child’s needs. An after-school tutoring and care program also is available.

Coastal Academy currently uses 5,500 square feet of its 10,000-square-foot building. The remaining space, Akentis said, will be used to house a high school program next school year. Applications for the program will be accepted starting in January.

For more information, visit or call 312-6743.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

Grand Opening
Sarasota Coastal Academy will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9:15 a.m. Friday, Sept. 14, at its facility, 5581 Broadcast Court, Sarasota.

Prospective families can call 312-6743 to schedule tours or to have their child try out the school for a day.

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