A new charter school opening on Parsons Avenue this fall will target migrant students, whose families follow crop seasons throughout Florida and into other states.
"We were approved Dec. 13 as a charter in Seffner and are the only charter elementary school in that area," said Zenobia J. Cann, who helped apply for the new charter school.
Cann serves as director of the pre-school at The Word of His Grace Christian Fellowship, which will rent space to the new school. She will move into a position with the charter school, called W.E. Phillips Learning Academy.
"Our focus is every student, but we will concentrate on migrant families that are highly mobile students transitioning from Immokalee, Ruskin, Wimauma, Plant City and out of the state," Cann said.
There are a number of schools in eastern Hillsborough County already serving the migrant population, including Dover, McDonald and Bailey elementary schools and Strawberry Crest High School, said Carol Gagliano, director of the Migrant Education Program for the Florida Department of Education.
But a recent increase in the migrant population in this area might have spurred the charter school, Gagliano said.
"It may be that the (Hillsborough County school) district feels there are enough opportunities there, but certainly one of the advantages of a charter school is it provides families with a choice," said Mike Kooi, executive director of the state's Office of Independent and Parental Choice. "The families will get to choose which school best suits their needs."
Cann called the mobile migrant students "a highly underserved population with a large achievement gap. "We've created a charter that will close that gap."
The curriculum, "Imagine It," and "Imaginalo," the English language learner parallel program, will be used at the school, which will open with three classrooms for kindergarten through second grade. Each year, a new grade will be added, up to fifth grade.
The school will provide migrant students with flash drives so they can transport their records and test grades wherever they go. "They can start right where they left off" at a new school, Cann said.
The school, at 2506 S. Parsons Ave., is expected to open with 54 students.
Cann said Phillips' teachers will be bilingual and will collaborate with Ann Cranston-Gingras, director of the Department of Special Education at the University of South Florida, who runs the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP. School leaders also will collaborate with the Redlands Christian Migrant Association school in Ruskin and with a migrant school in Immokalee.
Funding for the new charter school initially will come from the Florida Department of Education. Cann said the school also is setting up a foundation for donations and will raise money throughout each school year.
To learn more, visit www.wepla.org.