SAFETY HARBOR — Harborside Christian Church will lease space this fall to an academy that has a somewhat unusual hybrid curriculum: it combines homeschooling with a typical academic schedule.
Students at NorthBay Christian Academy, which outgrew its previous quarters, will attend classes at the church on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and will study under the guidance of their parents under their own roofs on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The school's director, Christie Dittmer, said "it's a fairly new and growing" concept that works well for parents and teachers.
"Teachers write up lesson plans for the homeschool days,'' she said.
The courses include music, art, physical education, drama and Spanish.
In Largo, First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks offers a similar program.
"These blended schools are not considered a trend, although there does seem to be a few more out there than in the past,'' said Gary Weaver, chairman of the nonprofit Florida Parent-Educators Association. "I have only seen them in the Christian private school community.''
This week, the Safety Harbor City Commission approved the plan after they realized traffic would not be a problem during dropoff and pickup times.
To prevent rush-hour tie-ups on Marshall Street or McMullen-Booth Road, organizers scheduled the school day from 9:15 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
"We want to have minimal traffic impact on the neighborhood,'' said Dittmer, who met with nearby homeowners associations to address their concerns.
On a typical day, 15 cars drop off and pick up students.
Why is that number so low? Groups of siblings ride in the same vehicles. Also, many parents carpool.
"Traffic is a nonissue," said Harborside senior pastor Kurt Parker. "We have a whole lot more cars on Sundays."
The city limited the school to 80 students. They will use nine classrooms at the church.
Parker said many of the students, as well as their parents and the school's leadership, are members of the church.
"We know them, we like them and we trust them," he said. "They have values that are very much congruent with our values. They help kids and adults fall in love with Jesus.''
"I hope it's a long-term relationship," Parker said.
Eileen Schulte can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4153.