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Published: Friday, 6/15/2012

Toledo area charter schools make plans to expand, grow

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER

At least four new charter schools plan to enter the crowded Toledo education field next year, and an additional school with two sites in the area plans to open a new campus.

Schools are planned in a former grocery store, a downtown office building, a once-shuttered Catholic school, and at the former Masonic Temple next to the Stranahan Theater. Combined, the schools plan to enroll hundreds of students, at a time when Toledo continues to lose population.

Ann Harris, a former teacher who runs a child care and early childhood education company, plans to open the Academy of Educational Excellence at the former Masonic Temple, 4747 Heatherdowns Blvd. Vacant since the Scottish Rite left about four years ago, the building will house a kindergarten through third-grade school this fall, with plans to eventually expand to fifth grade.

Ms. Harris, the wife of longtime local TV personality Bill Harris, said the school will focus on literacy and technology. She is opening the school because she wants to provide educational opportunities for the children she works with at an early age.

"We want to see them continue to grow," Ms. Harris said.

She said she believes parents who don't feel comfortable with young elementary children in schools with eight graders -- Toledo Public Schools recently made all elementary schools K8 buildings -- might prefer the younger age limits at her school.

Imagine Schools, a national for-profit charter school company that manages dozens of schools, plans to open its third Toledo charter. The company currently runs Clay Avenue Community School in North Toledo and the Madison Avenue School of Arts in the Uptown District. Imagine now has plans to open a charter school in the former Our Lady of Lourdes school building, 6149 Hill Ave.

Company regional director Marlene Mills said Imagine plans to lease the property from the Catholic Diocese of Toledo, and hopes to open a grades kindergarten through fourth school in the fall, with enrollment of about 225 students.

The school will have an environmentally focused curriculum, Ms. Mills said, and the property's 17 acres is perfectly suited for the school's intended focus.

"It's a really beautiful piece of property," Ms. Mills said.

Another national charter school company, Connections Education, plans to open a site on the fourth floor of One Lake Erie Center, 600 Jefferson Ave. Connections typically runs online charter and private schools; the new site would be a high school called Nexus Academy of Toledo, and would provide a "blended" school, where students use online curriculum at home, and spend part of the day at the site.

Students would attend either an afternoon or morning shift at the school. The school estimates enrollment at between 250 and 300 students. The school plans to hire four on-site teachers, a personal trainer, three "success-coaches," and will use as many as 50 online teachers, spokesman Allison Bazin said.

Kids Unlimited, which runs after-school tutoring and mentoring program at several charter and Toledo Public School buildings, plans to open its own charter school next year, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Program president Chris Amato did not return messages Thursday requesting information about the proposed schools.

And Horizon Science Academy, which has sites in downtown Toledo and in Springfield, plans to add a third site in the area. A company associated with Concept Schools, which manages the academies, bough the former Seaway Food Town store in DeVeaux Village. Company officials said in November the school will eventually have 30 classrooms, a gymnasium, a football field, a career center, cafeteria, and laboratories, and would be retrofitted for 630 high school students. Documents presented to the Toledo City Plan Commission Thursday described the school as including grades kindergarten through eight.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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