Three new charter schools proposed for Pasco County

Combined, they seek to serve about 2,000 students.
The Pasco County School Board [Times photo | 2018]
The Pasco County School Board [Times photo | 2018]
Published April 24, 2019|Updated April 24, 2019

Two out-of-town organizations with some local representation seek to open three new Pasco County charter schools in fall 2020.

They target high growth areas that seek to have schools available to new residents moving to the area, much as deputy superintendent Ray Gadd frequently has advised the School Board was likely to occur. The charter applicants note in their submissions to the district that many of the existing schools in the areas sit above capacity, and they aim to meet anticipated growing demand for seats.

Florida Educational Charter Foundation, in conjunction with Broward County-based Charter Schools USA, has proposed two K-8 “innovation preparation” academies — one in the “connected city” development near Wesley Chapel, and another in the area south of State Road 52 between Zephyrhills and Trinity.

The group is the same one that battled the district for permission to establish Pasco Charter Academy about four years ago. After the School Board relented, that charter never opened.

Charter Schools USA now is operating Union Park Charter Academy in Wesley Chapel, and in the application suggests it would base many of its programs on activities at Union Park.

The two schools are envisioned to open as K-6 centers with about 765 students each, expanding to add grades seven and eight over the following years. Former school district principal Steve Knobl, who now heads the county Early Learning Coalition, is listed as a director and point of contact for the applicants.

The third charter is proposed by a Palm Beach County group that also is looking to open schools in Broward and Palm Beach.

Called R.I.S.E. Charter Schools — not to be confused with the district’s own Project RISE effort to improve west-side schools — the group proposes a middle-high school focused on renewable industries and sustainable energy.

Also targeting a fall 2020 opening, R.I.S.E. would use “inquiry based problem solving” and “discovery zones” in place of the traditional classroom approach. It would begin with grades six through nine, at 100 to 200 students per grade level.

It would then add one more grade level each of the next three years.

The school is slated to open in the Wynfields development near Wesley Chapel. It counts Dan Rishavy, a former administrator with Athenian Academy charter school, as one of its consultants.

District officials are in the process of reviewing the requests to ensure they meet state requirements and local expectations for charter schools. The School Board is expected to consider the charters this spring, most likely in May.

If approved, the county would have 13 charter schools. Florida Virtual Academy at Pasco closed in June 2018, and the district has moved to shutter Pasco MYcroSchool.