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Marco couple donates $1.5M to local school; MIA to speed up construction of new building

A Marco Island couple recently donated $1.5 million to Marco Island Academy (MIA), allowing the school to speed up construction plans, according to officials.

Rene and Tish Champagne originally pledged to donate $1.5 million within a five year period but recent cash flow projections made clear the school would have to borrow a significant amount of money.

"Once the Academy completed its cash flow projection to fund the construction, it became very apparent that multi-year pledges would require the school to borrow significant funds between pledge payments," Mr. Champagne wrote on an email to school staff.

"Marco Island Academy is graduating to a new campus."

Tish and Rene Champagne participated in the "Revving Up For Rays" event to benefit MIA's Capital Campaign on Feb. 22. "The students at Marco Island Academy are worth investing in," Tish Champagne wrote. "It is an honor to be involved in giving these students a firm knowledge base so that they can feel confident in determining their future."

More:Marco Island Academy breaks ground for new permanent campus

Mr. Champagne is vice-chair of MIA's board of directors. 

The Champagnes had previously donated over $1 million to MIA, according to Jane Watt, chair of the board.

"Originally the construction was going to be done in three phases," Watt wrote to the Eagle. "Now it will be completed all at once."

"The early payment of the pledge reduces our carrying costs and allows us to do more with the limited funds the school has."

Students will start taking classes in the new building by early 2021, according to Watt.

Marco Island Academy students will start taking classes in the new building by early 2021, according to Jane Watt, chairperson of MIA's board of directors. In the picture, Watt smiles in front of MIA's temporary modular classrooms on Oct. 17.

In May 2018, MIA launched a $12.5 million capital campaign to construct permanent buildings on the campus to replace the temporary modular classrooms and administrative offices currently in use. 

Following the Champagnes' latest donation, MIA reports to have $9 million, 72 percent of the total goal.

MIA is an A-rated, accredited, tuition-free, public charter high school open to all students in Collier County, according to the school's website.

"MIA continues to be recognized as a high-performing charter School by the Florida Department of Education," the website reads.

The school has over 230 students, according to Watt. Of them, about 30 percent participate in the school's free lunch program.

Another report shows over 69 percent of the students live in the city of Marco Island and about 12 percent on Goodland, a neighboring town within the island.

The rest of the students live in Naples and other parts of Collier County.

The students who attend MIA come from all backgrounds, according to Watt.

"Many of the parents work in the service industry on Marco Island," Watt said.

MIA submits construction permit to city

The construction plans for the new Marco Island Academy facilities include a multi-use gym, a two-story academic building, an outdoor rooftop dining area and an athletic field for football, soccer and cheer-leading, giving the school its first home field. The school opened its doors in 2011 with 68 students.

Marco Island Academy submitted the construction permit application to the city on Oct. 10, a city staff confirmed.

The construction plans include a multi-use gym, a two-story academic building, an outdoor rooftop dining area and an athletic field for football, soccer and cheerleading, giving the school its first home field.

Melissa Scott, the school's principal, said she was very excited with the news.

"The kids have done so well," Scott said. "They deserve it."

Scott said the new facilities will enhance the students' overall experience and make the school much safer.

"I'm so proud of what we have built," Scott said.