MIA stands for Marco Island Academy. Of course, it also stands for “missing in action,” and that is how a hometown Marco Island high school has seemed to many. At a meeting Thursday evening at Marco Island Charter Middle School, all that changed. While past meetings had focused on the concerns of adjoining property owners at the proposed Tract K location, Thursday’s gathering was all about the nuts and bolts of the coming school year.
With Tract K still in question but possibly being set aside for the Eagle (see Friday’s story online), the school will start operations in modular buildings at a temporary, 5.8-acre location off San Marco Blvd. The first students, freshmen and sophomores, are scheduled to begin classes in just six months.
Chairman Jane Watt introduced the school’s first staff members to a crowd of approximately 150 in the MICMS gym. Hired after a nationwide search, Chris Pellant, the new charter high school’s principal, told the group “this is a dream job for me.”
The MIA athletic director, Roger Raymond, is already familiar to Marco Island as head of the MICMS athletic department. He reminded the audience that, just like the new charter high school, the grounds where MICMS stands now was nothing but bare ground and sandspurs not too long ago.
Video and music producer Mark Haffner, who will work with students to produce audio/visual materials, was also introduced, and clips of his work shown. He has produced videos for clients as diverse as Sean “Puffy” Combs, Busta Rhymes, Folger’s Coffee and Walt Disney Productions. Altogether, about 60 interested teachers have applied for the nine positions available, the audience was told.
For the first time at Thursday’s meeting, enrollment packages were handed out to prospective students and their families. Watt told the group that the school can accommodate a maximum of 125 students to begin with, but can start with fewer. Average class size, she said, would be 24.
“We can operate with 62 to 75 students,” she said, “and we certainly hope to have more. Once we hit capacity, we will go to a lottery system” for student enrollment, said Watt, urging interested families to get their enrollment forms returned to the school as soon as possible. “We’re starting to mail the packets tomorrow. It’s first come, first served.”
The school, as a public charter school, will have open enrollment, and there is no tuition, she said, but “we’re always happy for any donation. Last year, we raised $50,000 without knowing what we’re doing.” She offered that anyone donating $5 million could have the school named for them.
Parents are urged to volunteer if financial contributions are a hardship, and Watt emphasized that volunteers are expected to be the lifeblood of the school. Speaking about sports and activities, she said there would undoubtedly be many opportunities for carpooling to events.
“This school is parent-driven – literally,” said Watt. At the same time, bus service will be provided within a ten-mile radius through the Collier County Public Schools, and lunches will most likely be prepared at Tommie Barfield Elementary, she said. In response to one question, Watt said yes, the school would have a dress code, to her own daughter’s dismay.
Raymond fielded many questions from prospective parents about what sports will be offered. Initially, he mentioned golf, cross-country, volleyball, soccer and tennis, with others to be added as the school grows. Students who want to play a sport not offered at MIA would be eligible to go to the district school they are zoned for and participate there, he said, so for instance, Marco teens could play football at Lely High School.
Watt praised the community involvement, saying the school will work with anyone, and they are already collaborating with the Y and the City of Marco. She announced two events – a Super Bowl package with the Marriott, and a 5K run scheduled for March 12.
Marco parent Michael Vale rose to thank Watt and her team for their hard work and dedication in making the dream of a Marco Island high school possible, and the room erupted in applause.
“My daughter is in eight grade, and there are more behind her,” said Vale, who said altogether, he has nine children.