January 03, 2017

Babcock Neighborhood School breaks ground

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Submitted December 29, 2016

Prospective students, parents and community partners recently joined with Kitson & Partners to celebrate the launch of construction of Babcock Neighborhood School. The new public charter school just began accepting applications over the Thanksgiving weekend, and more than 45 students have already requested enrollment for the 2017-18 school year.

Straddling the border of Charlotte and Lee counties in Southwest Florida, Babcock Ranch will eventually be home to about 50,000 people. As the only public school within a 10-mile radius of the new town center, BNS is also a more convenient option for neighboring families. The school will be open to all students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight who qualify to attend a public school in Charlotte County — including out-of-district students who are allowed to request admission under Florida’s new open enrollment law.

“We have celebrated a lot of ‘firsts’ over the past year, but perhaps none more personally meaningful and gratifying to me as what we are doing today,” said Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners. “Babcock Neighborhood School realizes our vision of putting world-class education right at the heart of our new town – within walking distance for our earliest residents and in easy reach of our neighbors.”

Babcock Ranch will be welcoming its first residents in the first quarter of 2017. As the world’s first new town primarily powered by the sun — adjacent to the 73,000 acre Babcock Ranch Preserve — the town provides an environment that fosters physical, mental and emotional growth and encourages students to interact with and explore the world around them.

Babcock Ranch developer Kitson & Partners engaged Collaborative Educational Network to help articulate the vision for the school. CEN is an educational consulting firm that has worked with charter schools in Florida for 20 years. The unique partnership with Kitson & Partners, BNS and CEN has equipped Babcock Ranch to deliver on the promise of high quality, community-based public education with an emphasis on the core community values of environmental stewardship, health & wellness, technology, innovation and collaboration.

At the groundbreaking celebration, CEN president Dr. Christy Noe engaged prospective students to help illustrate the kinds of hands-on learning opportunities to be found at Babcock Ranch. As students grabbed gardening tools to start container gardens, Dr. Noe introduced them a wide variety of local herbs to be featured in community gardens, some of the native plants that are reducing the amount of water needed for landscaping at Babcock Ranch, and varieties of butterfly bushes that community partner Florida Power & Light is planting at the Babcock Solar Energy Center to support pollination of local crops.

Opportunities for hands-on learning about renewable energy and innovative technology at Babcock Ranch extend far beyond the FPL solar field at the north end of the town. From the panels on the rooftop of the school and surrounding buildings to autonomous vehicles ferrying residents around town, solar energy and cutting edge technology will be a prominent feature of daily life. In addition to a solar educational curriculum to be introduced at BNS, FPL is installing “solar trees” as functional art for community parks.

Babcock Neighborhood School has established a unique partnership with Florida Gulf Coast University’s College of Education to establish a collaborative research and teaching partnership to identify effective processes and practical exemplars for implementing various research and teaching initiatives and to provide input to best practices for teachers and administrators through effective professional development.

While many charter schools limit enrollment to early grades at startup and then phase in upper grades, BNS is preparing to serve all grades in its inaugural year — but the final determination will be based on student enrollment. Interested families can register on the BNS website at

“Schools are the cornerstone of every successful community and we are pleased to be able to incorporate quality, community-based public education from the very beginning at Babcock Ranch,” said Al Dougherty, COO, Communities Division of Kitson & Partners. Dougherty is also serving as president of the Babcock Ranch Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that will help provide financial support for BNS. The school will be overseen by a volunteer board made up of individuals from the community with experience in education, business and technology.