Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pasco officials consider new charter school applications

The owners of a New Port Richey ranch that focuses on therapeutic riding for children with disabilities is seeking to join the ranks of Pasco County's charter schools.

Kiddy Up Ranch has notified the district of its intent to apply to open a charter school that would provide hands-on education with farm animals for children with mild intellectual disabilities. It aims to open in 2014 for up to 40 students in kindergarten through third grade.

"There's no schools out there for children like that, and we're exploring a whole new teaching method," said Christina Giuffre, a teacher who is heading the planning for Kiddy Up Learning Academy. "We really hope the board is as excited about it as we are."

The deadline to apply for a 2014-15 charter is Aug. 1. So far, just a handful of groups have shown an interest.

The arts-themed Dayspring Academy, which operates two campuses in Port Richey, has told the district of its desire to build branches in Holiday, Hudson or both, to serve students on its lengthy waiting list. Tampa-based Pepin Academies also has told officials it wants to grow into Pasco County, where many of its students live. The school, for students with learning disabilities, tried to push through a proposal to open this August but ran afoul of district rules.

"I have heard talk of more coming in," district charter schools coordinator Nancy Scowcroft said. "In the past, we have received probably 50 percent more applications than letters of interest."

Those applications have not always turned into operating schools.

Two years ago, the district received 11 applications, more than in any other year. Despite enthusiasm for many of the proposals, the board approved just one, which has yet to open and remains in contract negotiations. A classical preparatory charter school approved to open this coming fall has delayed its debut as well.

That leaves just one other new charter, the Florida Autism Center for Excellence, slated to begin classes in August. Director Carrie Walker said she is in the process of recruiting staff and students for the school, which sits behind Agape Baptist Church in Zephyrhills.

It would bring the total number of charter schools serving students in Pasco County to six. By contrast, the slightly larger Polk County district has 24 charter schools. That limited representation in Pasco has drawn interest from potential applicants seeking to take advantage of the state's push to provide more school choice. Lawmakers recently added funding for charter school building needs, while restricting the funds for traditional school capital projects.

Giuffre said Kiddy Up initially considered creating a private school until meeting with a staffer for Sen. John Legg, whom she said advised that the state had plenty of money for new charter schools, which are public but not subject to all the red tape placed on mainstream districts. Legg said he and his staff do not advise opening a charter for money, and that funding is not free flowing.

If approved, she said, the school would use its animal therapy model to help children with their social and physical needs, which in turn would benefit their academic skills. The existing ranch uses that model, she said, and "our charter school is basically taking that concept and putting it in a school setting."

Class size would be limited to 10 children per teacher. The applicants are looking at an 11-acre property with a barn in New Port Richey for the school.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at, (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news visit the Gradebook at

Pasco officials consider new charter school applications 07/16/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 7:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]