Education

Rowlett Academy expands its reach in Manatee County

Rowlett hopes to attract middle schoolers

Rowlett Academy hosted its third open house Wednesday night for parents and students interested in attending Rowlett Middle Academy, the charter school's new middle school.
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Rowlett Academy hosted its third open house Wednesday night for parents and students interested in attending Rowlett Middle Academy, the charter school's new middle school.

Jamara Clark, the future principal of the new Rowlett Middle Academy, can use the Hair Club for Men’s “I’m not only the president, I’m also a client” sales pitch when selling prospective parents on the charter school.

He’s not just the principal, he’s also a parent.

“I was a parent first. I wanted the best educational experience for my child,” Clark said Wednesday evening, talking to a room of roughly 100 parents and students interested in attending the new charter school next year.

The Rowlett Academy for Arts and Communication will be opening the Rowlett Middle Academy in time for the 2017-18 school year for 350 to 400 students in sixth and seventh grade. Beginning in 2018-19, the school will expand to eighth grade as well, with a maximum of 600 students.

I was a parent first. I wanted the best educational experience for my child.

Future Rowlett Middle Academy Principal Jamara Clark

Former Rowlett Academy Principal Brian Flynn, who is helping open the new middle school, said this is the third open house Rowlett has held so far for interested parents and students. He said roughly 200 people have attended open houses so far.

“What parents have asked for is us to carry on into a middle school setting,” Flynn said. “They weren’t as happy with what was being offered in (public) middle schools.”

School administrators touted the academy’s focus on the arts and leadership.

Riley Marquis, 12, was one of the students hoping to attend Rowlett Middle next year. Riley went to elementary school at the Rowlett Academy, but he currently attends Braden River Middle School. Harkening back to his elementary school days, Riley described how much he loved attending Rowlett because of getting to host the morning news program for the school.

“There’s art programs and dance programs and film programs, which is my personal favorite,” Marquis said. “As soon as I got accepted, I sprouted into filmmaker mode.”

Riley’s mother, Pearl Marquis, said she, along with the rest of the parents in the room, were invested in Rowlett.

“It is a crazy amount of parent involvement,” said Marquis, who also works in the school lunch room. “Every parent that comes here is involved.”

It is a crazy amount of parent involvement. Every parent that comes here is involved.

Pearl Marquis, parent and employee at Rowlett Academy

The new middle school will be housed in the former Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School building, which Rowlett bought from the School District of Manatee County after the district shut it down last year, citing a report report from the consulting firm Dejong Richter that identified Orange Ridge-Bullock as being in poor condition and requiring $7.4 million in repairs.

At Wednesday evening’s meeting, Flynn assured parents that the new facility would be in top condition by the time school starts.

“There is nothing, nothing wrong with Orange Ridge Bullock,” Flynn said. “I don’t want anyone to say to you, I don’t know about that school. Trust me.”

Flynn said the building would require cleaning and new carpeting, but besides that, it was in fine condition.

Clark said students at the new middle school would wear uniforms, the school would provide free busing from “hub stops” spread throughout the county, and the school day was tentatively scheduled to run from 8:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Applications to the school are due on Feb. 28. Students who are current Rowlett Academy students or are alumni only need to attend an information session and apply, and they will be automatically accepted.

Students new to Rowlett will need to write a letter of interest, provide a letter of recommendation, submit a portfolio and attend a one-day summer camp session to learn about the new school. Visit rowlettmiddleacademy.org for more information.

Ryan McKinnon: 941-745-7027, @JRMcKinnon

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