BRADENTON -- A two-story $3.7 million middle school is on the way to Bradenton Christian School's campus with a target opening date of next August.
The nine-classroom school, which will include a science lab, teacher's lounge and 225 laptops for students, is still in the planning phase.
The Christian school on 43rd Street West in Bradenton serves more than 700 students from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. In the past two years, enrollment has jumped nearly 23 percent from 580 students to 712.
"We wanted to keep our class sizes small, like we really like it," said second-year Superintendent Dan Vande Pol.
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Founded in 1960, it is the oldest and largest private Christian school in Manatee County. The 24-acre campus includes an elementary building, secondary building, center for fine arts and technology, stand-alone gym and an athletic center.
In the new school, each classroom will have a 70-inch interactive flat panel screen.
The high school building will also get an exterior makeover, so the two buildings look visually similar.
The new middle school will be built south of the existing middle and high schools.
The project, which will be completed by Oden-Hardy Construction of Bradenton, will also create a covered walkway between the campus buildings.
Vande Pol credits enrollment growth to word-of-mouth from students and families.
"We're serving our families and out students well," he said. "They come here and they stay here."
All teachers instruct from a Christian perspective, Vande Pol said, which gives students standards to carry with them throughout life.
The private school doesn't have to follow the same standards and curriculum public schools are mandated to follow, which means Bradenton Christian students don't spend nearly as much time testing as their Manatee County public school counterparts, Vande Pol said.
"It's a blessing," he said.
The Bradenton Christian School Board approved the middle school plans Tuesday, and the project will go before Bradenton City Council on Oct. 14 for approval.
"We were running out of room, the plan made a lot of sense," said Jan Braam, a 1986 Bradenton Christian graduate and the president of the board.
The school's core values and Biblical worldview help make the school attractive to community members.
"We offer an excellent education at an affordable price for a lot of people," Braam said.
If approved and with proper permitting, officials expect construction to start in January and be completed in time for school to open in August. The middle school wing in the current building will open up for more high school classrooms.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.