House speaker, mayor praise school for autistic kids
House Speaker Will Weatherford speaks at an open house held for the Florida Autism Center of Excellence in Zephyrhills. GARY S. HATRICK
BY GARY S. HATRICK Tribune correspondent
Published: June 22, 2013
Updated: June 22, 2013 at 06:18 PM
ZEPHYRHILLS - House Speaker Will Weatherford was a guest this week at the open house of the Florida Autism Center of Excellence, or FACE, a Pasco charter school in Zephyrhills. The school is renting buildings on the grounds of Agape Baptist Church on Laurel Valley Boulevard off the Chancey Road Bypass. The open house was held in the sanctuary of the church. Mayor Danny Burgess and Todd Vande Berg, Zephyrhills director of development, also attended the open house. Both had shown their support of the school during a recent planning commission meeting. About 70 people attended the open house, many of them parents interested in the school, and church members, although the school is not affiliated with the church.
Weatherford spoke of his own education and the choice his parents made to home-school him, his brothers and sisters. Citing his support of school choice, he also said the school provides an opportunity for the parents of autistic children to choose an education suited for their children. "You can't put a price tag on that," he said. "You can't put a value on that." Weatherford said it was fitting that the open house to launch the new school was being held in a church. "We hope the Lord continues to bless all the children who get an education here," he added. Burgess thanked FACE for coming to Zephyrhills and offered any help the city could provide. The school was recently embroiled in a controversy with residents of the nearby Majestic Oaks RV Park and Resort. The residents appeared before the Zephyrhills Planning Commission on June 11 citing safety concerns stemming from the school sharing the road into the park. No Majestic Oaks residents identified themselves at the open house. Tom Porter, vice president of Schools for Quest Inc., the Orlando-based company opening the school, and Carrie Walker, FACE director, fielded questions from parents about the school's curriculum and requirements. After the meeting, Porter took the parents and students on a tour of the classrooms. The Pasco County FACE is scheduled to open Aug. 19. There are still spaces available for students. For more information visit faceprogram.org.