Naples Daily News
Parents and the community members attending the school advisory council meeting let out cheers and wrote messages in the chat celebrating the milestone.
Petra Hernandez Gonzales, who joined the school community about seven years ago, said she’s very thankful to see it happen.
“I’m so proud of the opportunity this will bring to the kids,” Hernandez Gonzales said in Spanish.
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The K-6 school will begin to offer seventh and eighth grade in upcoming school years, and its name will change with the expansion.
Immokalee Community School, now renamed Immokalee Community Academy after state registration, will add seventh grade next year and then eighth grade will be offered the following year.
Since its opening in 2000, Immokalee Community Academy parents and community members have advocated for the school to build upon its original goals, including to go beyond primary school.
In the past five years Quintero said she started to hear more from families who wanted the option to keep their child at the school longer.
“They shared their interest because they knew what we had for their students allowed them to be successful,” Quintero said.
The building is located on Fourth Street near Main Street in Immokalee. The soon-to-be K-8 school will remain in its current building, Quintero said.
More than 250 students attend the school with many being from migrant families in the community that speak Spanish at home.
“Every year the parents would say at the SAC meeting, ‘But we’ve asked you and we asked you last year and we asked the year before,'” Juana Brown, director of charter schools for RCMA, said.
“There’s even more to celebrate than just the simple addition of adding seventh and eighth,” Brown said.
The school will also continue its dual-language program through its middle school education, Quintero said.
School leaders hope that students will be able to receive a certificate of biliteracy ahead of high school, Brown said.
With additions to school programming, RCMA officials also applied for 62 acres of land near the northwest corner of Lake Trafford Road and Carson Road to be rezoned to mixed-use planned unit development.
About 160 multi-family housing units, a K-8 school and preschool are listed in the application.
“In a few years, there’s the opportunity to realize something on a broader scale,” Brown said.
Brown said RCMA knows that affordable housing is a pressing issue in Immokalee.
Immokalee Community School parents rejoice in expansion
Parent Patricia Miranda, who serves as student advisory council president, said she considers the school a second home for her family.
“I was so happy because I saw this progress since the beginning,” Miranda said. “I remember. We started this dream since my daughter was in kindergarten.”
Miranda said the school’s diversity of cultures and languages sets it apart from other schools.
Like Miranda, Carolina Macias, a new parent at Immokalee Community Academy, said smaller class sizes and bilingual educations are a few factors that make the school valuable.
“They teach values,” Macias said. “They teach culture. They teach tradition that I consider at this time essential for kids to have a firm foundation to achieve their goals.”
Macias’ son started this semester in second grade, she said she immediately noticed a difference in him.
“He loves the school,” Macias said.
Rachel Fradette is an education reporter for the Naples Daily News. Follow her on Twitter: @Rachel_Fradette, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.