Before the first home was completed in Babcock Ranch, the first community school opened. Then work immediately began on its replacement.
Having risen from a field of dirt to a completed school in a mere seven months, class is now in session at the second Babcock Neighborhood School to be opened in as many years in Babcock Ranch. On Aug. 8, Syd Kitson, developer of the new town that straddles Lee and Charlotte counties off State Road 31, was joined by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to celebrate the school opening.
The new, 43,000-square-foot, 25-classroom facility replaces the original Babcock Neighborhood School, already mothballed after opening only a year ago with eight classrooms in 11,000 square feet. A victim of its own success, the project-based learning charter school was at capacity on opening day, even before the first home was occupied in Babcock Ranch.
“We were hoping to get 76 students that first year,” Kitson told assembled media, faculty, elected officials, contractors and other invited guests. “We had 156 seats. We ended up with more than 300 applicants.”
With a capacity of 338 students, the school is the centerpiece of the new, all solar-powered town that will eventually be home to nearly 20,000 residences, golf courses, shopping centers, nature trails, parks and more. It will serve grades K-8. A high school will be ready for the first class of ninth-graders in two years.
Well known for his belief in charter schools, Bush is chairman and founder of the Excellence In Education foundation, and a seven-year member of the Babcock Ranch Advisory Board. He says the school’s project-based education model is an example of the future of education.
“Jeb Bush through the years had been passionately telling us you need to start with a school,” Kitson says. “We decided to take that chance, and boy did it work out.”