MARCO ISLAND — The Marco Island Academy is on the move – literally. The new charter high school, set to open for its first school year this August, has covered an enormous amount of ground in the scant year since the organizers held their first public meeting. But now the school, slated to open in August for its first school year, has another new location.
The first class of Marco Island Academy (MIA) students will begin classes in facilities at the First Baptist Family Church at 1450 Winterberry Drive. The classrooms were previously occupied by the Winterberry Christian Academy, which ceased operations at the end of the just-completed school year.
“We made the decision about three weeks ago,” said MIA chairman Jane Watt. “To complete our campus on San Marco, we’d be paying overtime. When we found out the cost, I started looking at other options.”
When first proposed, the school was going to be housed on the grounds of the Marco YMCA. A year ago, the school’s promoters announced a new location at Tract K, in the Tigertail area. With that property tied up in disputes about compatibility, eagle nests, and availability, the group announced in February they would open this year in a temporary facility on 5.8 acres off San Marco Road.
“We didn’t have enough buffer room” on the work needed to ready the site for the beginning of the school year, said Watt. “I needed a firm guarantee from the construction manager we could open, and he couldn’t give a 100 percent guarantee.”
First Baptist senior pastor Tim Neptune said he personally welcomed the new use of the 6,000 square foot space at the church, but didn’t want to speak for the entire congregation.
“We try to stay neutral on everything” from septic tanks on up, he said. “Jane Watt called us and asked to meet to discussing using our facility. I think it’s a great thing.
“The church voted Sunday night to move forward. The lease has not yet been finalized, but everything seems to be proceeding smoothly.”
MIA school counselor Deboray Eby is already working out of the new space.
“This is a beautiful facility,” she said. “This will be great for the kids. It’s very nice to know where we’re going to be. I can’t wait to start working with these kids.”
“It is wonderful that at Winterberry, it’s already set up as a school,” said Watt. “We’ll just move in our science lab equipment, and everything is ready to go.”
Currently, MIA has approximately 70 to 75 students enrolled for the upcoming year, and at the Winterberry space, they can accommodate a maximum of 100, said Watt.
“Since this was already a school, we know how many are permitted,” she said, urging interested students and their parents to sign up as soon as possible to guarantee a slot for this year. “We’re trying to be good neighbors.”
Watt said she expected MIA to stay at Winterberry for the entire school year, but to be at the San Marco location next year.
“The facility at First Baptist can only accommodate 100 students, so we can’t stay there more than one year,” as the school is projected to grow to 150 to 200 students the next year, she said.
Watt was reached by phone in Miami, where MIA is holding a fundraising event headlined by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee.
The first day of school for students – ever – at the new Marco Island Academy will be Aug. 22.