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School using Scientology methods will expand to a new campus

The site will accommodate up to 100 students in the private academy.

By RITA FARLOW, Times Staff Writer
Published January 9, 2008

A rendering shows modular classrooms at the 2.8-acre site of a new Clearwater Academy International campus. The private school serves kids in grades pre-K through 12.
[Clearwater Academy International]

A Clearwater private school that uses study methods created by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is planning to add a new campus in the Largo area.

Clearwater Academy International purchased the 2.8-acre lot at the corner of S Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Wyatt Street in August 2006 for $995,000. The school recently applied for a sewer permit on the site.

Headmaster Jim Zwers said the expansion, spurred by a steady increase in enrollment over the past several years, is still in the planning stage. Enrollment went from 150 students in 2002 to 270 in 2007, Zwers said. "We just have a lot of students," he said. "So we're kind of looking for now and looking toward the future."

Plans for the corner lot include two wings of connected modular classroom buildings, an asphalt court for hockey or volleyball and a sports field. Three of six existing tennis courts on the lot will remain. The rest will be converted to parking spaces and a basketball court.

"We'll make it look nice. There's lots of vegetation and a big lake there," Zwers said.

The new campus will hold a maximum of 100 students. Zwers said school officials are considering moving the upper grades to the new location, but that decision has not yet been made. Total enrollment at the two sites will not exceed 325, he said.

The school, which serves kids in grades pre-K through 12, was formed in 1997 with the merger of three small private schools: A to Be School, Jefferson Academy and Renaissance Academy.

The school is licensed by Applied Scholastics, a nonprofit organization founded by Scientologists in 1992.

In keeping with Hubbard's "study technology," students are taught using a system of "check sheets" that lay out the reading assignments, definitions and concepts required to master each subject. Students are schooled in a primary tenet of Hubbard's "tech," which is never to read past a word they don't understand so they won't miss the meaning of the text that follows.

Another tenet is that students learn better when they have "mass" in front of them to illustrate abstract concepts.

There are no letter grades.

Students advance to the next grade after successfully completing a check sheet for that grade.

Rita Farlow can be reached at or 727 445-4162.

Fast facts

Clearwater Academy International

The current campusis at 801 Drew St. in Clearwater. The school expansion will be at 1110 Wyatt St. near Largo in unincorporated Pinellas County. Tuition is $8,210 a year.

[Last modified January 9, 2008, 12:43:57]

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