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East County Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2021 7 months ago

School Board of Manatee County approves new charter school in Lakewood Ranch

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Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy will now negotiate a contract with the School District of Manatee County.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

The School Board of Manatee County approved Lakewood Ranch Charter Academy's application in a 3-2 vote during its meeting April 27.

Charlie Kennedy and Rev. James Golden were the dissenting votes. 

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.

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.

Eddie Ruiz, the state director for Charter Schools USA for Florida, said the school will develop partnerships with the Brain Health Initiative, LECOM and the School District of Manatee County. 

"I'm excited because there were some pretty heavy demands as this went forward, and they kind of stepped up to the plate," said Scott Hopes, a school board member. "I think as you see the type of partnerships that has been proposed is extremely unique. It's not a charter school in our district; it's a unique partnership between the school district, the business community and Lakewood Ranch."

Golden had concerns regarding the charter school being located in Lakewood Ranch and whether the approval of the school would take away from the schools already in the area.

"I'm just at a loss to see how approving this charter improves public education in the county," Golden said. "There's no doubt in my mind it improves public education in Lakewood Ranch, but they have an abundance of riches. ... We already have one school we are trying to create as a magnet school that is going to offer medical technical education to help the children in this county. We've got another school in Lakewood Ranch — Manatee Technical College — that offers quality education to do things in this community."

Mitchell Teitelbaum, general counsel for the School District of Manatee County, said the district now has 30 days to provide a proposal for the charter contract, and Southwest Charter Foundation and Charter Schools USA will have 40 days afterward to negotiate.

If an agreement cannot be made, the Florida Department of Education will provide mediation for contract negotiations. 

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