Walls go up at Marco Island Academy as COVID-19 prompts fundraising challenges

The construction of Marco Island Academy's new facilities is at full speed as workers build its walls amid the coronavirus pandemic.

For months students have been taking classes at home due to COVID-19, allowing the school to continue with the project as scheduled, according to Jane Watt, chairperson of MIA's board of directors. 

"They have been on schedule or almost a little bit ahead because they are not having to work around our students on campus," she said.

On May 7, the gym's foundation and walls could be seen as well as the footers of the academic building. "It's an amazing feeling," she said. "I can't even believe we are finally building a school."

Before the virus, high school students were taking classes inside temporary modular classrooms, but by early next year they will have a new campus featuring 17 classrooms and a full gymnasium.

"According to the current construction schedule, which can change, the arts and athletic facility and (the) academic center should be complete by Jan. 2021," Watt wrote. "We have not established the migration plan for when students will move into the new building." 

A soccer field, which will include stands, lockers and a fitness facility, will be completed on a later date.

Construction workers build Marco Island Academy's new facilities May 7, 2020.

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Special in-person events have been key to raising funds for the $15.1 million project but with COVID-19 that's not possible anymore, according to Watt. The school still needs $4.1 million to complete its campus.

"For our capital campaign, the best way to fundraise has been to invite potential donors to the school to see our current facilities, tour the classrooms, meet the teachers and see our plan for the future," Watt wrote.

The school also had to cancel one of its largest fundraising events for the year, which raises funds for its student success fund and athletics.

Switching gears, the school expanded the range of naming opportunities to vary from $50,000 to $1 million, according to Watt. 

"It's stressful because we are trying to complete the campaign during a pandemic," Watt said. "I don't know how it will happen but I truly believe we are going to be able to do it."

Mark Melvin, capital campaign steering chair, wrote that a permanent building is critical for the school but also for the community. "Marco Island now has a world-class public school on the island," he wrote.

The capital campaign co-chair and board member Marianne Iordanou agreed. 

"I feel the MIA permanent campus is a needed and very important asset to the Marco Island community," she wrote. "In today's world, it is important that our children are safe and secure. They are the future leaders of the world as well as Marco. Our MIA students are learning what it means to be part of a community and how to give back."

For Melissa Scott, the school's principal, the new campus means a ray of hope amid difficult times.

"Being separated from the students and staff over the past months has made for a very difficult time, so seeing our new campus rising from the ground is truly remarkable and one positive of this pandemic," she wrote. 

For more information go to www.missionmia.org or send an email to Jane Watt to jwatt@marcoislandacademy.org.

Contact Omar Rodríguez Ortiz at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.