Problem with hearing notice forces school to reapply
By B.C. Manion
A public hearing on a proposed campus in Lutz for students in grades seven through 12 likely will be scheduled in May.
A hearing set for March 19 had to be canceled because public notices were not sent out in a timely manner.
The proposed school has drawn opposition from area residents, who are concerned about traffic and environmental issues.
Traffic concerns cannot be eliminated but can be reduced by staggering the school schedule, said Patti Girard, founder of Learning Gate, which began as a private preschool in 1983 and converted to a public charter school in 2000. Learning Gate has an elementary campus on 27 wooded acres at 16215 Hanna Road, and leases space for grades seven through nine in an office building at 15316 N. Florida Ave.
The seventh- through 12th-grade campus is proposed on 66 acres near Nye Park, with primary access from US 41. The school’s possible name, Gates Senior High, is drawn from its five areas of emphasis: Global outreach, the arts, technology, environment and sustainability.
Girard said the school is expected to grow slowly, so the area will be able to absorb its impacts gradually. The campus would be on property with extensive wetlands, which the school wants to incorporate into its curriculum.
The elementary campus has an organic garden and the first modular school building in the country to achieve the platinum designation in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) for Schools program. The new campus is intended to be a net zero campus, meaning all its power would be produced there, taking if off the electrical grid.
Girard has been meeting with residents to address their concerns and believes they are making progress. Genesis Group, which is handling the school’s application, had to submit a new application because it had used up its continuances.
Learning Gate draws from communities in Hillsborough and Pasco counties, including Lutz, Trinity, Land O’ Lakes and Wesley Chapel.