Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco families find new school for their children with autism

Chris and Tammi Dester talk with their son, Nicholas, 11, in April after picking him up from his charter school, the Florida Autism Center of Excellence. The Zephyrhills school closed abruptly, but families like the Desters got good news this week: the Monarch School of Lakeland, which focuses on children with autism, expects to sign a lease to open in Zephyrhills soon.

Chris and Tammi Dester talk with their son, Nicholas, 11, in April after picking him up from his charter school, the Florida Autism Center of Excellence. The Zephyrhills school closed abruptly, but families like the Desters got good news this week: the Monarch School of Lakeland, which focuses on children with autism, expects to sign a lease to open in Zephyrhills soon.

ZEPHYRHILLS — Families seeking a replacement for Florida Autism Center of Excellence-Pasco, a charter school that closed without warning, have found a new place for their children to go.

The Monarch School of Lakeland, which focuses on children with autism, expects to sign a lease to open in Zephyrhills later this week.

It will operate at Zephyrhills First Assembly Church, just a short distance from the shuttered FACE-Pasco, which had run out of Agape Baptist Church on Chancey Road.

"I'm almost certain it will happen. It's just not finalized at this point," Pastor Charles Crank said. "It looks like we can be a blessing to them by providing facilities."

Less than a month ago, parents were not sure where their children would attend classes.

Quest Inc., which managed FACE-Pasco, abruptly announced it would walk away from the school after its first year, taking its expertise and monetary support away from the financially struggling campus. The charter school's board of directors planned to close the site and walk away, but parents begged for time to find alternatives that wouldn't uproot their children, for whom change does not come easily.

"We kind of went from A to Z on each option to see which would be the best fit for our kids," said Chris Dester, whose son Nicholas attends the school.

The consensus choice at first was HOPE Youth Ranch in Hudson, he said. But its negotiations with Agape Baptist broke down, leaving Monarch as the next best option.

Parents had concerns about Monarch's teacher certification guidelines, and also worried that they could not afford the difference between state McKay scholarships and the school's tuition. After working out those problems to most everyone's satisfaction, they turned to the place.

The families wanted to remain near Zephyrhills, but the original spot wasn't working out. So they scoured the area for a site that could become a school quickly.

Zephyrhills First Assembly popped up. It used to have a school, but the buildings had been empty for months.

Things fell into place from there.

"We're cautiously optimistic," Dester said Wednesday. "We certainly are going to fund raise like crazy to make sure that this school remains self-sustainable. The parents are heavily invested."

He had nothing but praise for Monarch, HOPE and other organizations that reached out to offer alternatives to the families after FACE-Pasco's demise. "All they did was listen to us, hear our cry and come to help," he said.

Dester said his son, who loves animals, was saddened that HOPE Youth Ranch wouldn't be coming. He had looked forward to horse therapy, a feature of HOPE that Monarch doesn't offer.

"But he is happy he has a place to learn," Dester said.

Pasco families find new school for their children with autism 06/11/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs

     Winner of the week

    Peter Antonacci. Gov. Rick Scott tapped his go-to utility player to lead his Florida job recruiting agency, Enterprise Florida, having previously picked him for his general counsel, to lead the South Florida Water Management District and to serve as Palm Beach state …

  2. On the Camino de Santiago, Day 19: A peregrina spends the whole day under the weather, and part of the day under the table

    Travel

    Day 19: El Burgo Ranero to Puente Villarente: 25.4 km, 7.5 hours (Total for Days 1-19 = 454 km (282 miles)

    This list pretty much sums up my day:

    Eat two bananas

    Walk 13.1 kilometers

    Nap

    Walk 6.2 kilometers

    Nap

    Eat half an apple

    Walk 6.1 kilometers

    Crash< …

  3. Storm routs Cleveland

    Storm

    TAMPA — Alvin Ray Jackson intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown, and recovered two fumbles as the Storm routed Cleveland 57-27 Saturday night in its home regular-season finale at Amalie Arena.

  4. Miscue sends Rays to another stinging loss to Rangers (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays gave away DJ Kitty onesies Saturday night. Then they gave away the game.

    Rays centerfielder Mallex Smith misses a drive hit by Adrian Beltre with two outs in the sixth, allowing the tying runs to score. Beltre puts Texas ahead 4-3 when he scores after two wild pitches.
  5. Rowdies shut out Charleston

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Rowdies know a thing or two about stalemates, with five of their past 10 games ending in a draw.

    Rowdies in the first half during the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and the Charleston Battery at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Saturday, Jul 22, 2017.