Local parents now have a new option when they consider where to send their kids to school.
Woodmont Charter School will open at 10402 N. 56th St. at the former Verizon call center in time for the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.
“We are shaving the exterior wall so there is better sight distance as you approach the Serena Drive and North 56th Street intersection,” said Doug Dieck, president of Ryan Companies, which is making improvements to the 57,900-square-foot building.
Other changes to the outside of the building have been minimal— parking spaces have been removed to make room for a playground area.
The inside, however, has been completely remodeled.
Woodmont Charter School is owned by Charter Schools USA and is a tuition-free public school in the Hillsborough County school district.
A lottery was conducted for registration, and 600 students will attend Woodmont in the fall. Students can still register, but they will be placed on a waiting list.
Ryan Companies will hand the school over to teachers and staff in about three weeks.
The school will open with kindergarten through sixth grade, and seventh and eighth grades will be added in the school’s fourth year, which will increase enrollment to 1,100 students.
Woodmont is the eighth charter school to open in Hillsborough County this year.
Charter schools are different from county-owned public schools because they are publicly funded but owned and operated by an independent organization.
“Charter schools are provided with a degree of flexibility and are free from many of the regulations and requirements of the district’s other public schools,” said Richard Page, Charter School USA’s vice president of development. “This allows us to have some freedom to do things differently in exchange for a performance based contract.”
Charter schools have a greater amount of accountability because of their performance-based contract. If a school happens to receive a failing grade, it faces the chances of being closed. Page said this criteria has helped many schools improve and maintain A and B ratings.
“We have implemented a data-driven instruction model,” he said. “This allows teachers to have a better view of student performance and individualized education. It really helps boost student performance.”
Charter Schools USA operates 31 charter schools, and in each one, all students are provided with their own personal learning plan. Each student is assessed individually based on their learning goals and where they are academically. Parents and teachers are able to access learning plans.
“We use a lot of different tools and software that allows teachers to provide targeted education against the standards they are required to teach,” Page said. “The individualized instruction helps measure individual progress, and it ensures that all students are learning.”
Parental involvement is also monitored by the database. When parents enroll their children at a school that Charter Schools USA operates, they are required to sign documents stating they will volunteer with the school for at least 20 hours each academic year.
“Accountability is a huge thing with charter schools,” Page said. “We want everyone who is involved with our schools to be accountable and involved, including parents.”
Before approving the school’s site plan, City Council members had concerns regarding traffic and student safety.
Once the school is open, the speed limit could be reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph from Whiteway Drive to Temple Terrace Heights, but that decision can’t be made until after the beginning of the school year, according to Kris Carson, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Transportation.
“Per Florida Statute 316.187, speed limits are set or determined on the basis of an engineering and traffic investigation,” Carson said. “Therefore, it would be premature to make any determination regarding any change in the posted speed limit until after this school is open.”
According to Carson, the Florida Department of Transportation will “monitor the traffic conditions on North 56th Street closely” to determine whether or not any additional measures need to be taken. Carson said speed limits do not change relative to school traffic unless crosswalks are present. All students attending Woodmont Charter School will be provided bus service, so there will be no crosswalk needed at the Serena Drive and North 56th Street intersection.
For students whose parents drive them to and from school, there will be entrances and exists on 56th Street and Serena Drive, but parents will be limited to entering on Serena Drive only during pick-up and drop-off times. There will also be separate arrival and dismissal times for kindergarten through fourth grades and fifth through eighth grades to alleviate traffic issues.
And parents are signing affidavits as a precautionary safety measure that state they will not allow their children to cross North 56th Street.
“This particular intersection does have the added benefit of an existing southbound right turn lane, and a northbound left turn lane, which should help mitigate the effects of any increase in traffic during the a.m./p.m. peak school traffic periods,” Carson said.