Athenian Academy allowed to expand

The School Board turns around on doubts.

Published May 16, 2007

LAND O'LAKES -- The Athenian Academy charter school used a three-week delay to convince Pasco School Board officials that the school deserves to expand.

The elementary school, which focuses on Greek and Spanish languages in addition to a regular curriculum, got the School Board's blessing Tuesday evening to add a sixth-grade class and raise its maximum enrollment from 180 to 224.

District officials had frowned on the idea a few weeks ago, noting the academy had not drawn as many students as anticipated, which could lead to money problems. But the school provided information showing its debt was minimal and its prospects to increase enrollment were strong.

One thing in its favor was the closure of the Language Academy, another charter school that the board voted to shut down this spring. Another was the school's agreement to provide transportation to children living 2 to 4 miles from the campus in New Port Richey.

"We think with transportation, that that is going to help them get to their target" for enrollment, assistant superintendent Sandra Ramos said.

The School Board unanimously agreed. The members had few questions after hearing from staff and school supporters.

About 35 parents, children and school employees attended the board meeting to make their case. Most just spoke about the school's successes in this, its initial year.

The school's third-graders, for instance, had the second-highest FCAT results of any Pasco County elementary school this year.

Parent Michael Cobb said his two daughters were doing "very well because of their one-on-one attention."

"They're fluent in Greek. This is within one year.

"I would like to ask you to keep a sixth grade for next year so they're able to continue on. I'm begging you, please. Let's keep it going," Cobb said. "My kids are college-bound. I want it to stay that way."

Others sounded much the same theme.

The crowd burst into applause when the board agreed to consider the item. Vice Chairwoman Kathryn Starkey had to remind them that the vote hadn't yet occurred.

They remained silent after the actual vote until Starkey encouraged them: "Now, you can clap."

They did.

In other news, the board learned that the district had reached an impasse with developers in the subdivisions surrounding Sunlake High School. As a result, it is unlikely the paved road leading to the high school will be ready in time for the first day of class in August.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614.