MARCO ISLAND — Momentum is increasing for the establishment of a charter high school earmarked for Marco Island.
The school, to be called the Marco Island Academy, hopes to admit its first students in about 16 months. It is scheduled to be built in phases in the grounds of the Greater Marco Family YMCA, but will admit its initial batch of students at an as-yet undisclosed venue.
Tuesday evening, the school held an open house brainstorming session at which parents, future high school students and community supporters were asked to put forward suggestions for curricula and sporting activities.
“The neat thing was that many of the suggestions are already in place,” said Board President Jane Watt.
They included “green” building design, hands-on student learning programs and a comprehensive sporting program to include baseball, swimming, soccer, volleyball, basketball, track, tennis and golf.
During a presentation after the brainstorming sessions, Watt touched on school aspects and frequently asked questions that included:
■ Reassurances that no taxpayer dollars would be involved
■ Assurances that traffic impact would be kept to a minimum by encouraging students to bicycle or walk to school
■ Highlighting that “green funding” would be pursued along with charitable and philanthropic canvassing for funds
■ Revealing that the building design would incorporate rooftop gardens, grassy terraces and planters ... all consistent with the notion of providing culinary arts as a student program
■ Outlining the provision of an outdoor science classroom with retention pond and native plants “so kids can study in the actual environment.”
Watt said the curriculum would embrace the AICE-Cambridge (Advanced International Certificate of Education), describing it as having more international flair and diversity as opposed to the AP curriculum available through traditional Collier County schools.
A core curriculum will also be on offer, she added.
Complementing the hands-on culinary arts course would be resort management courses, and also on-campus enterprises run by the students themselves — all aimed at giving students a taste of the real world, Watt said.
Cathy Cleary, who has two children who’ll enter high school within the next three years, supports the charter high school notion, but is keeping her options open.
“I don’t know yet,” Cleary said of putting her children in the school. “I’m supportive because I like the idea of families having a choice, but I don’t know yet what I’ll do with my own children. It depends on what they need at the time. We’ll see what comes to fruition. I’ll be looking at all schools and seeing what they have to offer.”
Watt said it was to early to put a price on the construction costs of the school, but architects have estimated costs at around $200 per square foot.
With the facility projected to be 83,000 square feet, the cost could reach $17 million.
Once up and running, the school then receives operating funds from the district, Watt said, although — as with other charter schools — about 2 percent less per student a year.
Watt said the school hopes to attract about 400 students.
“Not all (Marco students) will choose to go here,” she said, “but at least there will be local choice.”
Marco students, most of whom commute to Lely High average about 28 miles’ traveling a day compared to eight miles a day for Naples students.