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Two different charter schools in Orange County begin planning new high schools

A rendering for the proposed UCP West Orange High School.
A rendering for the proposed UCP West Orange High School. (City of Winter Garden)

Charter schools UCP of Central Florida and Innovation Montessori want to expand their footprint in Orlando’s suburbs with two new high school buildings.

UCP of Central Florida (formerly United Cerebral Palsy) is planning a 37,700-square-foot high school at 1441 Winter Garden Vineland Rd. in Winter Garden.

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The non-profit organization is teaming up with civil engineering company KPM Franklin to rezone an 8-acre lot the charter school bought in February for $2 million.

Plans show the new school building will accommodate 325 students and will also offer educational therapy services. Features include ample parking areas, play areas, sports courts and an expansion to an existing pond that extends to the south.

According to its website, UCP of Central Florida is growing out of its 14,000-square-foot space at 1297 Winter Garden Vineland Rd. — a former indoor mini-golf center that was retrofitted into a charter school in 2013.

In a press release about the expansion, UCP West Orange Charter School said the current campus is as capacity. Total project cost is estimated at a little more than $9 million.

SchenkelShultz Architecture is the architect. Seaside National Bank & Trust is providing financing.

Rendering of the Innovation Montessori Ocoee.
Rendering of the Innovation Montessori Ocoee. (City of Ocoee)

In Ocoee, Washington, D.C.-based charter school developer Building Hope is entering the permitting phase for a planned expansion of the Innovation Montessori Ocoee charter school campus at 1610 N. Lakewood Ave.

According to an environmental permit recently filed in the St. Johns River Water Management District, the developer is seeking to expand the campus by about 2.6 acres to accommodate a new high school building.

Currently the land, which lies next to the campus to the north, is not being utilized. The property is part of a larger 20-acre assemblage of land Innovation Montessori Ocoee purchased in 2017 for $1.13 million.

The charter school opened in 2017 as a K-8 charter school with the capacity to accommodate 800 students.. About a year later, it opened Innovation Montessori High School (IMHS) in the same location.

According to an application submitted by Innovation Montessori to Orange County Public Schools, IMHS will grow from 100 students in 2019 to 800 students in 2026, meaning at full build-out the Innovation Montessori campus in Ocoee will be able to accommodate 1,600 students.

Detailed plans about the new high school building have yet to be submitted. The SJRWMD application states the developer is seeking to begin construction of the utilities and asphalt pavement. Temporary mobile classrooms will be provided, and a level pad for the future building will be constructed at this time, the application states.

The city has approved construction plans for a new K-8 charter school that could serve up to 1,000 students in the high-growth area.

Representatives at Innovation Montessori were not immediately available to comment. Ocoee city records show the charter school filed for a construction and demolition permit earlier this summer.

Charter schools have caught the attention of developers since their inception more than two decades ago. The number of charter schools in Florida has grown to over 658 as of 2019, according to the Florida Department of Education.

Though they’re publicly funded, charter schools still have to pay rent if they don’t own their facilities — translating to steady income for investors.

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South Florida-based MG3 Development Group is another active charter school developer throughout the state. In Central Florida, it owns or developed at least three charter schools in Orange County.

Last year, it paid $2.5 million for a BridgePrep Academy site in St. Cloud.

In 2018, Building Hope Foundation also worked with Orlando Science Schools to help expand their current location at 2600 Technology Drive.

Have a tip about Central Florida development? Contact me at arabines@GrowthSpotter.com or (407) 420-5427, or tweet me at @amanda_rabines. Follow GrowthSpotter on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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