Revitalization underway at Charter School

Brandon Rose installs luxury vinyl planks on the sides of the hallway of The Villages Charter Middle School as part of the “refreshing” of the interior of the school that has been taking place during the summer months.

When students return to The Villages Charter Middle School this fall, it will be like they are walking into a new facility. It also will serve as a sneak peek for what’s coming when the new campus of The Villages Charter School opens in the fall of 2023. VCMS is being revitalized this summer with new flooring, fresh paint and modern furniture throughout the building. It’s the most extensive update to the middle school since the building opened in 2001, said Randy McDaniel, director of education. “That particular building is now 20 years old, so we decided this summer would be a great time for a refresh,” he said.

The primary and intermediate centers underwent similar updates in previous summers, McDaniel said. 

With parents buzzing about the future second charter school campus south of present-day County Road 470, the revitalization project shows the commitment to the current campus remains, McDaniel said.

“With a new campus coming online, it’s important to make sure that all of our facilities are up to date,” McDaniel said. “That matches with The Villages’ philosophy to keep everything first class.”

Devon Wiechens, director of commercial design for The Villages, said the updates were designed with an eye toward creating an atmosphere for learning.

“We wanted everything to be bright, colorful and fun,” she said. “It’s important to create a space where kids will want to go and can have fun learning.”

New technology and Furniture

In addition to redoing flooring and walls, classrooms will be equipped with new technology and furniture to provide more options for interactive lessons.

“All classrooms will have the latest technology with new computers and interactive projection screens,” Wiechens said.

The new furniture is a key element to the new look, McDaniel said.

“It might not sound like a big deal, but the furniture in a classroom is an important way to set the tone for what kind of learning goes on,” he said. “We wanted furniture that would be very flexible and interchangeable so a teacher can rearrange the room to fit any particular lesson. So the furniture will better match the way we like to see teachers and students interacting in the classroom.”

Many of those elements will carry over to the new school when it opens, Wiechens said.

“The furniture in both middle schools will be identical,” she said. “We’ll also be working with a few select classrooms in the high school and the elementary schools to test other furniture to see what works best for those age groups.”

Wiechens said the planning and design phase is nearly complete for the new schools.

“It’s been a lot of fun creating new learning spaces,” she said. “It’s been great to work with the principals, the teachers and the staff at all of the schools to get their input. They have had so many amazing ideas.”

The new campus will feature a second K-8 campus as well as a new and expanded high school for the entire charter school system.

The new schools will be designed by SchenkelShultz Architecture, said Tracy Morse, vice president of design for The Villages.

“They have designed and built many premier schools throughout the southeast and beyond,” she said. “We’ve come up with a spectacular second K-through-8 campus and a beautiful high school.”

School key to Building a world-class community

There were many who scoffed at the idea of building the charter school when it was first proposed, said Mark Morse, president and CEO of The Villages.

“Years ago, when we started to build a school in a retirement community, a lot of people thought we were nuts,” Morse said. “But we realized early on, in order to build a world-class community, you need a world-class team to do it. And the types of people we wanted to attract to help us deliver a world-class community are the types of people who are going to be concerned about their child’s education. So we hatched the idea for the charter school.”

The charter school, which opened in 2000, now has more than 3,300 students from kindergarten through 12th grade. The school has a waiting list at many grades now, McDaniel said.

The current K-8 campus on County Road 466 will remain part of the charter school system. Both K-8 campuses will feed into the new high school that will bring the latest in technology, academics, arts, sciences and athletics.

Plans call for a state-of-the-art sports complex at the new high school, including an Olympic-sized swimming and diving center, a large indoor sports and event complex capable of hosting large tournaments for basketball, volleyball and wrestling, multipurpose fields for soccer and lacrosse, expanded tennis courts, and stadiums for football, track and field, baseball and softball

The school also will have a performing arts building with an auditorium and a courtyard with areas reserved for outdoor learning.

The Villages Charter School has met high standards from test scores to graduation rates and other measures of achievement. The school had an “A” rating every year since 2003 that the Florida Department of Education gave school grades.

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or keith.pearlman@thevillagesmedia.com.