ZEPHYRHILLS — Work is moving forward on the transformation of a struggling charter school into a private school, and parent Chris Dester is optimistic about the way things are shaping up.
“It’s moving in the right direction,” said Dester, who also has been hired as the school’s director.
For Dester and other parents, it’s been a hectic last few months as they learned that their children’s charter school, Florida Autism Center of Excellence, or FACE Pasco, had financial problems that could lead to its closing.
The energized parents began looking for alternatives, eventually arranging for FACE Pasco to end its charter contract with the Pasco County School Board so that the school could be taken over by the private Monarch School in Lakeland, which also focuses on the education of autistic students.
About 20 children were enrolled in FACE Pasco, and about 12 of them will continue with the school. A few more students have enrolled, and the school’s goal is to have about 20 to 24 for opening day in August.
“It looks like we are approaching that now,” Dester said.
Parents of at least three more children are scheduled to tour the school next week, Dester said, and Monarch School is hoping even more will take a look July 19 when the school plans to invite the community in for an open house.
That event, which also will include fundraising efforts, will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at First Assembly of God, 36322 S.R. 54, Zephyrhills. Dester said that, in addition to school tours, the open house will feature activities such as a bounce house, pony rides and a dunk tank.
In its new incarnation, FACE Pasco will be called The Monarch School — Zephyrhills. Amy Arnold, CEO of The Monarch School in Lakeland, agreed to take on the mission of expanding her operation into Pasco after meeting with parents and working out an agreement to lease space from First Assembly of God.
The school also is interviewing candidates for teaching positions. Unlike charter schools, which are public schools, private schools aren’t required to hire certified teachers. Dester said that since Monarch’s hiring guidelines did not mandate that teachers have certification, one of Arnold’s concessions to the parents was that a parent panel could be involved with the interviews.