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August 09,2018 - Bush tours Babcock school

By KAYLA GLEASON

STAFF WRITER

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush visited the brand-new Babcock Neighborhood School campus just days before the start of the new academic year.

Bush — a member of the Kitson & Partners advisory board, the group responsible for Babcock’s development — toured classrooms and met teachers and staff just hours before the school’s open house.

The idea was to give leaders and community members a better idea of BNS’s unique “green-STEAM” education program. According to the school, this “integrates science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics,” through hands-on and individualized learning.

“Moving to this competency based system that this school’s on the vanguard of and customizing the learning experience and moving to a 21st century way of education, it will create huge potential

for every child that goes to this school,” Bush said.

“This technological wave is either going to drown the next generation or we have to equip them so they can ride the wave.

Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. They have the capacity to do far more and if you customize the learning experience, these kids are going to be winners.”

The school currently has 338 students enrolled — double last year’s rate — and more space for growth and the addition of an eighth-grade class in 2019. Administrators hope to become the first school in Florida to be certified in project-based learning.

“What I have long believed education should look like is coming to fruition at Babcock Neighborhood School,” said BNS principal Shannon Treece.

“The teachers and students in the classroom make it happen every single day.”

Bush had a pretty large role in the development of the school.

“Governor Bush, through these years, has been passionately telling us, ‘You really need to start with a school.’ It isn’t about a golf course or any of the other amenities, it’s about school,” said Syd Kitson, Chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners.

“We decided to take that chance and, boy, did it work out.”

Kitson also credits the quick development of a school to Babcock Ranch’s multi-generational demographics.

“We have a lot of young families moving in… it’s going to be very healthy for the community,” he said.

“[BNS] was full day one, which was a big surprise for us. The result is this new school that has enough seats for everyone.”

To Kitson and Bush, a charter school was a good match for the area, allowing teachers, parents and the board to have more local control.

“Sometimes, people think charter schools are privatizing public education. You’re just empowering the principal and teachers and parents a lot more than traditional schools have the ability to,” Bush said.

“It is designed for what the world looks like not for what it once was, and I’m excited to be an adviser for something as exhilarating as this.”

As BNS enters another school year and more students enroll, the area is also preparing for a charter high school as soon as 2020.

“It’s coming up fast, Syd,” Bush joked about the development.

“My hope is that as we start planning for the high school, that we start thinking about how you create a path for each child. You have to customize the learning experience to ensure each child reaches their god-given ability.”

For now, Babcock Ranch is home to students up through seventh-grade with plenty of hope for growth in both education and community.

“We are preparing these students for the future,” Treece said.

“The world is changing and academics need to change with it.”

Email: kgleason@sun-herald.com