NEW PORT RICHEY — A charter school application provided an education for city officials and school leaders alike, but Learning Lodge Academy recently won permission to open a facility near Gulf High School.
Traffic congestion topped the list of concerns of New Port Richey City Council members during the initial discussion June 3.
The final pact, submitted June 17, satisfied city council members that they have the latitude to make adjustments within the first six months after the school opens. They approved a special exception for a school since the site is zoned as an office district with a land use for homes or offices.
Learning Lodge Academy, at 5396 School Road, could start with some 280 students, according to Kerry Cuffe, its founder and director. Enrollment could top 480 students by the fifth year, city files show.
Cuffe and the city’s development director, Lisa Fierce, drew up a plan for staggered times to drop off and pick up students. By the third year, Learning Lodge leaders intend to add two 42-passenger buses.
“This has been a project in the making for three years,” Cuffe said at the June 3 council meeting. “We have almost 200 applicants already” on first day of registration of students.
Cuffe pointed out that the Pasco School Board aproved her charter school plan on her first attempt. The five-year Learning Lodge contract extends to June 30, 2019, with the possibility of renewal for up to 15 more years.
The main parcel of 2.47 acres holds the one-story structure with 30,532 square feet, built in 1973 for medical and professional offices. A fenced playground is located on the east end of the building. Two smaller parcels about a quarter of an acre each are used for parking and a detention basin.
Classes are scheduled to start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:30 p.m. Before-school care would begin at 6 a.m. while after-school care would extend to 6 p.m.
The current Gulf High School schedule would not conflict with arrivals and departures for Learning Lodge, Fierce said. The city could attach a condition to revise charter school times if the Gulf High schedule changes.