RIVERVIEW – When students head back to the classroom in less than two weeks, a new charter school will open in South Shore.
Bell Creek Academy, 13221 Boyette Road, will begin the 2013-2014 school year with about 650 students in grades 6 to 10. Each year another grade level will be added until 2017, when the school plans to graduate its first class of seniors from what will become Bell Creek Academy High School.
“We’re very excited to be opening this new school,” said Steven Blinder, the academy’s founding principal. “We will be keenly focused on our students’ science thinking, civics-mindedness and social consciousness.”
Having helped design the school’s curriculum, hired its teachers and creating the school’s cultural environment, Blinder is looking forward to putting his fingerprint on what he says will be a “model middle school.”
Students in teal and white or teal and black uniforms will attend classes from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and there will be no early release days. The average student-to-teacher ratio will be 20:1.
At 63,000 square feet, Bell Creek Academy will include three computer labs, 42 large classrooms, a science wing, art and music rooms, media center, cafeteria, basketball courts, baseball diamond and soccer field. A second, 20,000-square-foot building to ultimately house grades 10-12 will be ready for the 2014-2015 school year.
The total cost of the two buildings will be between $10.5 million and $11.5 million, which is being paid for by MG3 Valrico LLC, said Mike Strader, president of Charter School Associates, Bell Creek’s management company. The two schools will be leased from MG3 and share some facilities, like the cafeteria and labs, he said.
Charter School Associates manages 22 charter schools throughout the state.
“We provide a smaller, more intimate environment for our children,” Strader said. “Students receive more personal attention; parents and teachers develop relationships; and our teachers provide after-school tutoring. When the FCAT approaches, we offer after-school and weekend test preparation.” As a privately operated, publicly funded charter school Bell Creek Academy is required to meet the same state accountability measures as all other Hillsborough County schools but its administrators have “the flexibility to set the school’s curriculum and be much more community driven,” Blinder said.
“I can be much more Riverview-focused,” he said.
The academy is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Blinder answers to a board and Charter School Associates. For additional information, visit www.bellcreekacademy.com or call (813) 793-6075.