Plato charter school to open in Pinellas Park

Published April 16 2015

PINELLAS PARK — Acreage that once held a church and was destined to become a housing complex will be the site of a new charter school.

Pinellas Park council members approved a zoning change this month that will pave the way for the Plato Academy to open its seventh charter school in Pinellas. The School Board approved the school in June. It was to be located in St. Petersburg, in the area near Gandy Boulevard and Interstate 275, but that location fell through, so Plato moved to the Pinellas Park location. The School Board is scheduled to approve the new site at its April 28 meeting.

The 4.5-acre Pinellas Park location, at 9200 49th St. N, is the former site of the Pine Grove Community Church. In August, the Pinellas Park council agreed to allow a 20-unit single family subdivision to be on the property. The subdivision never materialized.

Plans are to convert the former church building to a 5,090-square-foot prekindergarten building. North of that, a new one-story building will house 10 high-school-level classrooms. To the west will be a two-story 48,123-square-foot building with 32 classrooms for kindergarten through eighth grade. Also envisioned are a pavilion, playground, soccer field and parking lot.

When complete, the school is expected to have up to 100 pupils in the prekindergarten, up to 546 for kindergarten through eighth grade and up to 250 high school students, Plato Academy representative. School hours will be from 8:40 a.m. to 3:10 p.m., but the school itself will be open for preK and before- and after-care from about 7 a.m. to about 5:45 p.m.

Plato already has charter schools in St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs and Seminole. All Plato schools received "A" in the 2013 academic year.

Mirroring some aspects of fundamental schools, Plato schools focus on discipline and dress codes as well as values-driven education. The academic focus is on reading, math and Greek as a second language. All students also receive instruction in science, physical education, the humanities, music, drama, and art. The Socratic method of teaching is used, emphasizing discussion and dialogue to develop critical thinkers.

Contact Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes.