October 30,2017 - Lee County students drawn to Babcock charter for innovative, hands-on learning

, PMCCABE@NEWS-PRESS.COM Published 7:46 p.m. ET Oct. 23, 2017 | Updated 9:48 p.m. ET Oct. 23, 2017

Babcock Neighborhood School is filled to capacity and has attracted a high percentage of Lee County students. Parents says they signed their kids up for the school because of the green, STEAM curriculum. Andrea Melendez/

Hands-on learning. One-on-one attention from teachers. The “best” lunches ever. And being able to attend a solar-powered school on a campus that sits smack-dab in the heart of an up-and-coming city.

There’s a lot to love about being a student at the newly-opened Babcock Neighborhood School, and nothing proves that more than the charter school’s booming enrollment in its first year of classes.

Already, the schoolhouse has reached its full capacity, with about 156 students attending the K-6 school. Most of those who attend hail from Lee County, although the campus is located in the south end of Charlotte County.

And that doesn’t account for the 96 kids who are hoping for a spot to open so they can be moved off the registration wait list.

“This week, we’ve gotten, like, 10 applications,” explained Principal Shannon Treece.

The school planned to open modestly with about 76 students in four classrooms, with some of the grade levels being grouped together.

As applications rolled in last spring, officials announced they would accommodate all the grade levels they could in the first school building’s eight rooms. On opening day, this meant two kindergarten classes, and one class for each grade level between first and sixth.

“It’s exciting,” Treece said. “It’s a good problem to have when you want to build a community. And the school is the most important part of the community.”

That’s why the school is forging ahead by adding seventh and eighth grades next year, with a groundbreaking coming soon for a permanent K-8 building. This, Treece said, could open as early as next fall, and is something the school wasn’t scheduled to do until year three.

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The growth, however, is due to the fun culture and project-based curriculum being promoted at the school, Treece said.

“It’s really neat because we still have to honor the standards that the state says you have to teach, but the beauty in it is how we do that is up to us,” she said.

On this day, that meant taking kids out to the playground, where, from a safe distance, they could watch a dynamite blast as workers made room for a 5-acre lake near the construction site for the community’s Lennar and Pulte homes.

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