Middle school students at the Literacy Leadership Technology Academy will soon become the elder statesmen of their own campus.
This fall, they will be joined by elementary school students as part of the Tampa charter school's expansion, highlighted by the construction of a 17,000-square-foot building.
"We were not willing to do this expansion until we were sure the middle school was on solid ground," said Lesley Logan, principal and co-founder of the Literacy Leadership Technology Academy. The independent charter school opened its doors in 2005.
The academy serves 296 students in grades six through eight. Logan said the school will add Kindergarten through fifth grade, but the student body will grow no higher than 576 to satisfy class size requirements. Applications for all grades are being accepted until Jan. 31.
The $2 million building will include 10 elementary school classrooms, a library, a music room and a cafeteria. The middle school students will remain in the academy's existing buildings and portables.
Logan began her teaching career as an elementary school teacher at Central Baptist and Seffner Christian schools in the early 1990s. She moved to North Carolina in the latter part of the decade and began teaching at a charter school.
"I enjoyed working at a charter because we're given the freedom to be more unique in a way that is not always possible for traditional schools," she said. "Charters also tend to be smaller, so we get kids who don't want to be in a class with 1,800 other students."
One example of that creativity is the school's dedication of all Mondays exclusively to electives, such as woodshop, music and sports.
The school opened in 2005 with 73 kids.
Today, the school draws students from Tampa, Brandon, Riverview, Valrico and the rest of east Hillsborough. They are taught by a staff of 29 employees, many of whom wear multiple hats, and parent volunteers.
"We're excited about having the opportunity to work with these kids when they're small and starting to go to school," Logan said. "Some of the kids get here one or two levels behind and they have to catch up.
"High school students today are required to take physics or calculus classes and that's not where everybody's strengths lie, so the expectations for them are much higher than when you or I were in school."