Thursday, June 21, 2018
News Roundup

Zephyrhills planners support charter school for autistic children

ZEPHYRHILLS — A planned charter school for autistic children brought elderly neighbors out in force at a planning commission meeting Tuesday night — in the name of safety.

"What about that girl who wandered away and drowned in that retention pond?" one woman shouted from her seat, bypassing the meeting protocol of standing at the podium to comment or ask questions. She was referring to Jennifer Caballero, an 11-year-old girl with Down syndrome, who managed to walk out of a Tampa middle school unnoticed in October and drowned in a nearby pond.

Tom Porter, vice president of schools for Quest Inc., assured the residents of Majestic Oaks mobile home park that student safety is a top concern with school officials as well. Quest is a nonprofit organization assisting children with disabilities, started more than 50 years ago by a group of parents.

With a ratio of one certified teacher for every four to five students, plus teacher assistants, the likelihood of a child wandering away is slim, Porter said.

"The only time they won't be in a classroom is during recess," Porter said. "They are never out of the sight of teachers and assistants."

Planning commissioners unanimously supported the school.

Porter noted that Quest operates a similar charter school for about 100 autistic students on the grounds of a Catholic church in Tampa, which has an unfenced retention pond nearby. In the six years the school has been open, there have been no problems with children wandering away, he said.

The Pasco County School Board gave its approval for the charter school in November. Quest will open for the upcoming school year in five portable buildings leased from Agape Baptist Church, which has owned 10 acres at 39735 Chancey Road since 1990. A portion of the church property is fenced, Porter pointed out.

In its first year, the school will enroll up to 38 students with varying types of autism in grades prekindergarten through fifth grade. By year five, enrollment is projected to reach 110 children in grades through the high school level, Porter said. Parents will drop off and pick up students.

Members of the church's congregation, including the Rev. David Brock's wife, Sharon, attended the meeting to show support for the school and to answer questions. Claude Greiner, who serves on the church finance committee, acknowledged doubts about the deal when he first learned of it.

"As a business deal, it's a losing proposition," said Greiner, recounting his advice to the pastor. "But we're not in it for the money. Anything we are legally bound to do, we will do."

Other safety concerns stemmed from Chancey Road, a truck route with a speed limit that reaches 55 miles per hour. City Planner Todd Vande Berg noted the church buildings are at least 450 feet from the road. He said there have been no safety problems involving the road at the neighboring county park, which features several ball fields and attracts hundreds of children and their families on certain days throughout the year.

Comments
WTR Pool and Grille brings ‘fun dining’ pool party scene to Tampa

WTR Pool and Grille brings ‘fun dining’ pool party scene to Tampa

Mike Piper has traveled to Las Vegas and Miami and enjoyed the fun, daytime, party pool scene that the two cities have to offer.Now he aims to bring that same atmosphere to Tampa with a new dining and hang out spot. WTR Pool & Grill opened on Sunday ...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
Grace Family Church gives thrift stores an upgrade in South Tampa

Grace Family Church gives thrift stores an upgrade in South Tampa

A new resale store has made its way to South Tampa. Grace Family Church recently opened Vintage Etc., to provide affordable, quality merchandise to the community and continue its outreach to help families in need in a loving Christian environment. "W...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

2.4 million Floridians expected to travel for Fourth of July

Summer has officially started and so have summer travel plans. About 2.4 million Floridians are expected to travel for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, up 6.3 percent from last year, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group."We are already seeing a b...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison builds in Wesley Chapel

Taylor Morrison will build a new subdivision off of Boyette Road between Wesley Chapel Boulevard and Overpass Road.The builder and developer recently broke ground on Chapel Chase, set on approximately 40 acres just north of New Tampa in Pasco County....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

Armature Works developers sue Ulele and city of Tampa over use of nearby building

TAMPA — Two of the city’s hottest developers — the groups behind Ulele and the Armature Works — are heading to court over an old city building that sits between the hit eateries.Both want to redevelop the city’s former office of cable communications ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Top 5 at noon: Is Chronister the right man at the right time?; Luke Bryan chats ahead of his Tampa show; and more

Here are the latest headlines and updates on tampabay.com.NEW SHERIFF WON OVER THOSE IN POWER. THE VOTERS? THEY DON’T GET A SAYRepublican Chad Chronister was appointed Hillsborough’s top cop after 26 years with the office. Is he the right man at the ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain and Berry Cafe to bring its healthy menu to USF area

Grain & Berry Cafe opened in Palm Harbor, and now the healthy eatery is rapidly expanding throughout the Tampa Bay area.The healthy eatery opened a new location on E Fowler Ave near the University of South Florida in May, just 10 months after opening...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

Weeki Wachee man arrested after search warrant turns up drugs, thousands of vape cartridges

A Weeki Wachee man faces drug charges after deputies said a search of his home Wednesday turned up nearly three pounds of marijuana, more than three pounds of hashish wax and more than 3,000 hashish oil cartridges for vape pens.Devin Alexander Volkes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Rick Stroud weighs in on report about possible Jameis Winston suspension

Tampa Bay Times beat reporter Rick Stroud isn't buying an ESPN radio report that any suspension levied against Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston by the NFL would stem from Winston's failure to report an alleged incident between him and a female Ub...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Updated: 1 hour ago