Leaders of Dayspring Academy, Pasco County’s first charter school, long have discussed extending their reach from northwest Pasco into the county’s southwest corner.
They’re now ready to take the plunge.
John Legg, a former state senator who helped found Dayspring 22 years ago, this week delivered to the school district an inches-thick application to open a new campus in Holiday for the 2022-23 academic year. If approved, the school would open with about 160 students in kindergarten through third grade, with plans to grow by about 50 students a year as it adds fourth and fifth grades.
The program would be based on Dayspring’s successful arts-oriented curriculum in place at its existing locations in Hudson. It comes amid the charter’s ongoing effort to provide an alternative to the school district’s offerings, which also have been undergoing a revamp.
“We’ve always felt like there’s a need in the Holiday area,” Legg said. “There’s a lot of issues there.”
The school district has joined with community groups to provide social services at Gulfside Elementary in Holiday, which has been marked by poverty and related struggles. Dayspring, which has enjoyed a positive reputation including strong student outcomes, aims to add to the mix with what it is calling its Mosaic campus, Legg said.
“We see a lot of broken pieces in Holiday,” he said. “If we can bring them together, it can be something special.”
School district superintendent Kurt Browning, who has questioned the value of some charter schools, did not have concerns about the potential growth of Dayspring.
“Parents will have a choice. That’s what it is all about,” Browning said. “We’re going to be competitive. We’re ready.”
School Board members said they looked forward to reviewing the charter application, noting they generally have supported Dayspring in its initiatives.
Legg said Dayspring officials respect the work the district has put into improving offerings in west Pasco. Still, they wanted to provide their own alternative, noting the demand for existing Dayspring schools has remained high.
In this year’s lottery for seats, the school had more than 700 applications in the first 48 hours — the fastest it has reached that level of interest.
The fact that Dayspring is adding new campuses in and around Hudson helped with the Holiday plan. The staff already had much of the material gathered to submit to the district, so preparing one more proposal was less onerous than starting from scratch.
The school also had provisions in place that it hadn’t been able to secure in past consideration of expanding into Holiday. It has a site to launch from, in conjunction with Generations Church, where it would start operations while looking for a permanent location of its own.
It also has a school leader with a proven success record and west Pasco connections — former Gulf Trace Elementary principal Dawn Scilex.
Dayspring has asked the district to approve its plan to open in 2022. It seeks to grow incrementally, in order to maintain high quality, rather than open its doors to hundreds of children it might not be able to serve well, Legg said.