STAFF REPORT

VENICE — Island Village Montessori School (IVMS), Sarasota County’s largest and only tuition-free Montessori school is on the grow again.

It is moving ahead with its master plan that was announced in January 2020 for consolidation of the Sarasota campus (11011 Clark Road) and Venice campus (2001 Pinebrook Road) for the 2020-2021 school year.

“It has taken a little longer because of Covid,” School spokesman Michelle Vitiello said on Friday. “It is being funded by the sale of our Sarasota campus which was sold in June.”

The ground breaking for the additional buildings took place two weeks ago and is scheduled to be completed in June 2022, Vitiello said. Classes will resume Aug. 10 which leaves a few weeks grace in case of construction or material delays.

“Our board and school leadership are engaged in a long-term planning process evaluating programs, infrastructure, enrollment, and staffing to ensure the best possible Montessori education for preschool to eighth grade students in a public charter school,” said Board President Patricia Meringer, whose own children attended the school.”

Full enrollment was not reached at the Sarasota campus while enrollment at the Venice campus has been strong and growing, Vitiello said.

Phase two of the master plan includes three buildings, one new 5,500-square-foot building and two new 4,000- square-foot buildings to serve approximately 200 students in seven classrooms. Each new classroom will have a computer lab, as well as a screened outdoor, open-air learning space. The $3.5 million project will rise on the east side of the 12-acre Venice campus. These buildings serve as the much needed replacement for the original 20- year-old modular building whih also served as classroom space foe the Venice Symphony’s summer music program for young people for several years.

The 10,860-square-foot modular building will be sold and removed from the campus when construction is complete.

“I have one person who is interested in that building already,” Vitiello said.

“This is an exciting time as we prepare to become one IVMS. We are passionately committed to educational excellence, financial stability and making a Montessori experience available to any child regardless of their family income,” said Jennifer Ocana, head of the school “The consolidation of the campuses is an important step in achieving that goal.

Phase one of the master plan included a new 5,500 square foot $1.2-million building to serve approximately 100 students in three classrooms. The building also houses food service. It is located on the east side of the 12-acre Venice Campus and helped welcome the Sarasota Campus students in the 2020-2021 school year. The Sarasota Campus closed its doors in June 2020 to bring all the students and families together on the Venice campus

The complete master plan envisions a cluster of buildings that will provide courtyard areas to promote a feeling of safety, community and a connection to the outside environment.

Board president Patty Meringer said “IVMS leadership was able to save funds through careful budgeting and by taking advantage of favorable refinancing terms a few years ago.”

Architectural services are being provided by Hall Darling Design Studio and Fisher Engineering was the civil engineering firm for phase one.

“We are so grateful to Jeff Charlotte and JECharlotte Construction Corp who generously donated pre-construction services that helped our leadership team plan, budget and navigate the terrain of development —which is not what we do day-to-day,” Head of School Jennifer Ocana said.

Phase two of the project was funded through the sale of the 100-acre Sarasota campus at 11011 Clark Road, which was listed by Susan Repp of Coldwell Banker.

“Research shows a Montessori education equalizes the differences in outcomes between socioeconomic groups,” Ocana explained. IVMS has earned the status of “high-performing charter school” by the Florida Department of Education since its inception in 2011.

“We need these expanded creative and technologically-sophisticated learning spaces to welcome more K-8 students, so they can thrive in today’s Montessori school environment and be prepared for tomorrow’s world, Ocana said at the ground-breaking ceremony.

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