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Sarasota School Board OKs bilingual charter school

Dreamers Academy aims to open in August in Sarasota.

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  • | 9:50 p.m. February 19, 2019
Founder and Dreamers Academy Principal Ruby Zickafoose.
Founder and Dreamers Academy Principal Ruby Zickafoose.
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The Sarasota County School Board approved Dreamers Academy as the district's 12th charter school on Tuesday night.

The school caters to kindergarten through fifth grade and will be the first dual-language public school in Sarasota County. Its mission, according to the school application, is to develop “bilingual, biliterate, and cross-cultural leaders of character within a caring environment that encourages family engagement and celebrates America.”

Ruby Zickafoose,  a founding member and principal of Dreamers Academy, said the school is looking for a location near 17th Street.  "We are in the middle of looking at two different properties and negotiating lease agreements," she said."They’re both around a five-mile radius of St. Jude Catholic because it’s kind of a Hispanic hub in the area."

And, while their original application was approved in November of 2018, the charter — a performance contract with specific stipulations between the academy and the school district— was approved Tuesday.  “It’s an ongoing relationship because the district is sponsoring us,” Zickafoose said. “But the contract is what both sides have agreed to in terms of how we’re going to run the school, our governing board, our everything. Everything is in [that charter]. So that’s the piece that both of us have agreed to.”

The charter was approved 4-1.


Board member Shirley Brown said she liked the idea of the school for Spanish-speaking and English-speaking students. “I think [Dreamers Academy] is something we can look at to improve the achievement gap for some of our Hispanic students. And also to offer a new option for some of our other students that would like to learn Spanish starting in elementary school.”

Zickafoose said the academy plans to have 16 classes and up to 288 students in its first year, employing a total of 30-40 staff. The plan is to add teachers each year as student population grows and advances in grade levels. Charter schools are publicly funded and operate under a performance agreement or charter that hold the school accountable for academic and financial results.

“I think that this is a great example of the innovation that can occur with charter schools to help satisfy some need that perhaps traditional public schools are not satisfying," board member Bridget Ziegler said. “I really do applaud the innovation that is coming through this, I know there’s a lot of excitement in the community … it definitely was out of the box.”

Enrollment for Dreamers Academy opened on Feb. 18 and will remain open through April 19.


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