Dania Serrano is willing to drive her children from Citrus Park to South Tampa each weekday because she believes a new charter school will be that good.
Dylan, 8, and Yasmine, 11, will be among the 150 to 200 students expected when BridgePrep Academy opens Tuesday.
The school — which will serve more than 400 children in grades K-8 when fully operational — is the first in Hillsborough County run by a charter company of the same name that also operates schools in South Florida. It has leased the same facility at 2418 W. Swann Ave. that formerly housed the now-defunct St. John Greek Orthodox School for many years. The company also owns a number of preschools called Smart Start, including one adjacent to the new Tampa BridgePrep.
Serrano said she is transferring her children from a charter school in northwest Hillsborough County for many reasons, including Julie Fouchie, BridgePrep’s principal; the Spanish classes; the small size of the school; and the facilities.
“I worked with her (Fouchie) for two years as a parent volunteer on events,” Serrano said. “I am just impressed; she totally deserves this position for the leadership she has shown.”
This is Fouchie’s first assignment as a principal. She was previously part of the leadership team at Henderson Hammocks charter school.
“I enjoy charter schools. I think they have a lot to offer,” she said.
Fouchie said the school plans to open with grades K-6 and add additional grades in coming years. Her new enrollments are coming from public, private and charter schools, as well as the neighboring preschool.
“South Tampa is a growing area and great area,” Fouchie said. “This is a good location.”
Students will wear uniforms and have the opportunity to participate in planned after-school programs such as karate, tennis and other activities. Tampa BridgePrep will use the previous school’s computer lab, library and other facilities.
All students will participate in Spanish classes each day, Fouchie said, noting that many of her staff members are bilingual.
“If they enroll in kindergarten and go all the way up, they should come out pretty fluent,” she said.
Freelance writer Lenora Lake can be reached at email@example.com.