After operating on the Temple Beth Sholom campus for about a year and a half, Dreamers Academy charter school has found a place to call its own in Newtown.
Dreamers Academy’s new educational campus is under construction at 2146 Myrtle St. and plans to open for classes in August 2023.
The new 43,100 square foot, two-story school building is being constructed to have six classrooms in each grade level with breakout spaces for small group instruction, outdoor learning spaces and a playground designed by the students. This new school building is designed to facilitate collaboration, conversation, and project-based learning.
“This is a dream come true,” said Head of Dreamers Academy Cathy Rodriguez. “We’re in our second year in operation to be able to build a new building that has been designed and created with our students and families in mind and to maximize the dual-language model.”
Dreamers Academy’s new campus is being financed by the Florida Development Finance Corporation. According to the Florida Development Finance Corporation’s website, it’s a state-wide, special development financing authority for economic development purposes. It is the first time the state agency has issued a bond investing in a new public school.
“Our dual language model is a much needed program and our families demand it. Their is a need in the community where they really want their children to learn both languages from native Spanish speakers and native English speakers,” Rodriguez said.
When asked if moving into a bigger campus would create more student admission and the hiring of more bilingual teachers, Rodriguez says, “Absolutely. For next school year, we are looking at potentially 450 student enrollment, but the full capacity of the building is 652 students.”
Rodriguez said that she is most excited about the custom-designed, modern library which she calls the “Dreamers Academy’s Biblioteca Tech Center.”
The media center is being funded by a $110,500 grant from Impact100 SRQ and will be an asset to the community and the heart of the school. It will feature an extensive collection of authentic, engaging books in both English and Spanish.
“The Biblioteca Tech Center is going to be the heart of the school. We had the opportunity to create it and design it with furniture that makes it the most inviting. The kids are going to want and can’t wait to get to the tech center,” Dreamers Academy Founder Geri Chaffee said.
“We wanted to be where the community is and that would most benefit from the program,” says Chaffee. "We want to bring this program model to the place where children and families that are craving to be part of their community school. We want to be a resource for the children to thrive and their families.”
The Sarasota County School Board approved the charter school in late 2018 with the idea of opening in time for the 2019-20 school year, but throughout the following three years, school leaders couldn't finalize a location.
School leaders originally aimed for a campus near 17th Street to be near to the county’s highest population of non-English speakers. However, leaders ruled out potential locations there due to environmental issues.
They then joined a partnership with Save our Y when it changed ownership from the Sarasota Family YMCA in August 2019. Dreamers pulled together millions in donations, tax-exempt bonds and state grants to purchase a portion of the Frank G. Berlin campus. But that partnership fell through in early 2020.
Then came COVID-19.
However, the contract between Sarasota County Schools and Dreamers Academy granted the charter school a three-year window to open, which it did at Temple Beth Sholom’s campus at the intersection of Tuttle Avenue and Bahia Vista Street.
Dreamers Academy is accepting student applications through January 30 for next school 2023-24 at DreamersAcademy.org.