Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Academy at the Lakes is taking a long view — and making some big plans.
While specifics are still a work in progress, the school envisions the creation of a third campus on 47 acres it acquired in 2013 from the MacManus family, of Land O’ Lakes, according to Mark Heller, head of school.
The private, independent school in Land O’ Lakes, at 2331 Collier Parkway, has an enrollment of 450 students, from preschool through grade 12. Besides Land O’ Lakes, its students come from New Tampa, Wesley Chapel, Lutz, Trinity, Spring Hill, Dade City, Hudson and Holiday, New Port Richey, Westchase and Odessa.
It now has campuses on both sides of Collier Parkway.
The third campus would be off 20 Mile Level Road, on land that is undeveloped, except for the former MacManus family home.
Plans for that third campus include athletic facilities, a new lower division school for grades kindergarten through fourth grade, and an environmental sciences education area.
It also would include the infrastructure that’s needed to support those facilities, Heller said.
The site off 20 Mile Level Road offers an exciting opportunity for environmental learning, Heller said.
Entering that site, Heller said, “you travel through a beautiful Florida wetland. A cypress swamp, water, wildlife, a beautiful canopy of trees.
“We aim for that to become an environmental science education area,” he said, adding that Academy at the Lakes’ vision includes classrooms and boardwalks, and perhaps an observation tower.
It would be a place, Heller said, “where, not only the children from Academy at the Lakes can learn to be good stewards of this gift of the fragile ecosystem,” but children from other schools would be able to attend environmental programs, too.
The site is just off State Road 54, in a rapidly developing area in Land O’ Lakes.
“When you’re here at Panera and RaceTrac, you’re in the heart of suburbia. You go 200 yards up 20 Mile Level Road and you’re in Old Florida. What we want to do is preserve this as Old Florida and use it as a community educational tool,” Heller said.
There’s also the possibility of using some of the school’s land at that site for a first-rate aquatic swimming center, with an Olympic swimming pool, he said. “We’re looking at partnering with someone else.”
Other potential plans include work at the school’s existing campuses.
There’s talk of expanding the school’s early childhood center. And, moving the lower division would allow the school to increase its middle and high school enrollments.
Other potential plans include adding a new robotics and technology center, adding a Maker Space and making other campus improvements, such as a quadrangle in front of McCormick Hall, Heller said.
Heller expects the school to begin moving on some, or all, of these ideas within the next few years, but said there’s no specific timetable or cost estimate available yet for the school’s future expansion plans.
Published November 1, 2017