Charter School Options

I recently attended informational meetings for three Tampa Bay area charter schools: Learning Gate, The Imagine School and Lutz Prep.

Charter schools are independent public schools operated by non-profit organizations that receive funding from local school districts. Each charter school hires their own teachers and designs their own academic programs while still adhering to Florida’s class size requirements and Sunshine State academic standards. Students at these three schools must wear student uniforms and take the FCAT exams.

Learning Gate

The tour and presentation from The Learning Gate Community School was truly impressive. Located on Hanna Road in Lutz, Learning Gate offers an educational program that ‚Äúpromotes academic excellence, community service and environmental responsibility‚ÄĚ. The middle and high schools stressed project based learning where students were encouraged to follow their interests ans passions. The K-8 campus offered a country setting that reminded me of Independent Day Schools (IDS). Learning Gate is preparing to open an additional campus that would expand the middle school and start a high school in the fall. One of the middle school project teams created a video that explained the benefits of project based learning, though I do not see it on the school’s website. I know extremely involved parents who are very pleased with Learning Gate.

Imagine School

The Imagine School at Land O Lakes is a Pasco County Charter School, though a bay area cooperative agreement allows Hillsborough residents to apply. The Imagine School at Land O’Lakes was founded in 2008 by a non-profit that operates 52 public charter schools. The presentation was held at Imagine’s temporary campus near Oakstead off State Road 54. The Imagine School serves Kindergarten thru 8th grade, but they hope to add a high school soon. The Imagine School in Pasco has enjoyed very strong demand from parents and students seeking an alternative to traditional public schools. The school is preparing to move to a new campus near Sunlake High School and Oakstead. We know many parents and students who are very pleased with The Imagine School at at Land O’Lakes.

Lutz Preparatory

Lutz Prep is Hillsborough County’s newest charter school. We attended an informational meeting at Wilderness Lake Preserve where the chairman of the school’s board, Thomas E. Murray, Ph. D. outlined the charter’s educational philosophy. While still in the process of hiring a principle and teachers, Lutz Prep will offer individualized instruction tailored for the needs and level of each child. Lutz Prep will initially serve grades K-5 and will be temporarily located at Lutz Lake Fern Road and 41, at the previous campus of Hand In Hand Academy. The Hillsborough County School District authorized the school at accept 224 students for the upcoming year. Parents are required to contribute 20 volunteer hours per year. The school’s presentation made a compelling case. While their website is under construction, some info is available on the Lutz Prep Blog.

Click here for answers to Frequently Asked Questions concerning Tampa Bay charter schools:
Hillsborough County Charter Schools
Pasco County Charter Schools

– Dale Bohannon