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Dayspring school wants to expand

The charter school is asking to double its enrollment next school year.


© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001

NEW PORT RICHEY -- After less than a year in existance, Pasco County's only charter school is asking the School Board for permission to double its enrollment next school year and to add classes for middle school students.

Dayspring Academy opened last August as a 130-student public school for children kindergarten through fifth grade. Its contract with the Pasco County School Board already allows it to start a sixth-grade class this August, but the school's parents and teachers now are proposing an expansion on a much larger scale.

The move would add 140 students and bring the school an additional $638,219 in tax dollars, putting its budget over $1.2-million.

Charter schools are public schools run by private groups of parents, teachers and businesses. They receive tax dollars to run the school, but are relieved of much of the governmental rules that the traditional public schools must abide by. Dayspring's curriculum has a heavy emphasis on the fine arts.

The school now is home to one class in each of its six current grade levels. The expansion request, which the School Board is expected to vote on Tuesday, would add an additional classroom of 20 students at each grade level as well as the previously approved sixth-grade class. The proposal also requests permission to add two classes of students in grades seven, eight and nine.

School spokesman John Legg said the idea for a middle school came from teachers and parents. He said the middle school classes would be on a trial basis and would be run independently from the elementary school.

The school has a contract pending for a new, bigger building which would allow for the expansion.

"We feel that this year has been a major, positive learning experience," Legg said. "When we move into the new facility, we'll have more room to accommodate more kids, but I don't really see us growing bigger than 300" students.

Pasco schools Superintendent John Long said he will recommend the School Board approve the proposed expansion. He said he doubts that the board has the authority to turn down the proposal even if it wanted to.

"From everything I've heard, they're doing a great job," he said of Dayspring. "And the way (Florida's charter school) law is written, I don't see how we can say no."

Come August, Dayspring no longer will be the district's only charter school. Two others are scheduled to open at the start of the new school year.

The Academy at the Farm, outside of Dade City, will open a special program for both disabled and non-disabled students. Deerwood Academy, a small middle school, is also scheduled to open on Pine Hill Road in Port Richey.

- Kent Fischer covers education in Pasco County. He can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6241 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6241.

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