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From Food Lion to Charter School: Deal Close To Convert Long-Vacant Flagler Beach Store

| June 14, 2012

The former Food Lion store on State Road 100, just before the Flagler Beach bridge, has been a vacant hulk since 2009. (c FlaglerLive)

A Jacksonville-based charter school company focused on Russian and Spanish language instruction is “in the final stage” of negotiations to sign a lease at the old, 60,000 square-foot Food Lion on State Road 100, according to the company’s founder. The store has been vacant since 2009. The Flagler County School Board approved Global Outreach Charter Academy’s charter in September.

“It’s not really strong, it’s going to be strong,” Sergey Soroka, Global Outreach’s CEO, said Thursday afternoon of the possibility that the lease would be signed soon. Soroka said he would know more next week. “It’s in negotiations right now,” he said.

Global Outreach has been on the hunt for a facility for its proposed 364-student, K-8 school for weeks, with a deadline looming in a matter of weeks: the new school, which told the school board that it would be open by fall, must have its facilities ready at least two weeks before the first day of school in mid-August. It must also turn in its school calendar to the board two weeks before the first day. That means the ex-Food Lion store, if a lease is signed, would have to be rebuilt from within to accommodate classrooms and offices in a matter of six weeks.

Global Outreach looked at the Food Lion stiore, then hoped to operate out of the old Heritage Academy facilities in Bunnell (the Flagler school board revoked Heritage’s charter this year, forcing it to close, because Heritage had been a failing school two years in a row). But those negotiations didn’t lead anywhere. Global Outreach negotiated with the owners of Roma Court on Palm Coast Parkway, just west of Belle Terre Parkway. Those talks fell through as well.

“They came to us through the ambassadorship program, the group that I have that talks to potential businesses,” Bruce Campbell, the Flagler Beach city manager, said this evening, “and asked us where we may have so e square footage a month ago. We told them about the Food Lion Plaza, 60,000 square feet. They contacted the owners, then somewhere some place they got some other opportunity and it didn’t look as good as this because of the build-out.”

The only municipal paperwork the charter school would need is a building permit. The company has already secured a commissary license from the state, enabling the school to provide meals to students through its own kitchen rather than through catering.

Space would not be an issue at the ex-Food Lion property. Florida law requires 60 square feet per student. With a projected enrollment of 364, the school would only be using about one-third the space. But Soroka said the school plans to expand the way its Jacksonville version–the first such “global” school Soroka founded in Florida with his wife Liliya, in 2008. That school’s enrollment grew from 70 students in the first year to 700 in the third. The couple had started a similar charter school in Sacramento, California, called Community Outreach Academy.

Charter schools are privately run, but publicly funded. The Florida Legislature has been shifting more dollars toward charter schools, at the expense of traditional public schools, especially construction dollars. But a new charter is not entitled to construction dollars until it’s been operating for three years. On the other hand, a charter may use tax dollars to pay rent for its facilities. Following Heritage’s closure, Flagler County is left with two charter schools: Palm Harbor Academy and Imagine School at Town Center. Enrollment in traditional public schools has been falling for the last two years, with a concurrent rise in charter schools’ enrollments. Outreach Academy, if successful, would be capitalizing on the trend.

It would also provide much-needed economic activity at the former Food Lion plaza, where stores have been struggling without an anchor for three years.

“There’d be a nice fill of a large building we’ve got vacant, plus it’s the right kind of establishment in that zoned area,” Campbell said. “There’s going to be parents dropping kids off, and going to the store while they’re dropping kids off, and maybe coming across the bridge and having dinner on the way home.”

But Campbell was being cautious about the deal working out–as was Soroka.

In accordance with the five-year contract it signed with the Flagler County School Bord in January, the school would be non-sectarian and not for profit. And yes, the school would have a uniform policy.

The company originally applied in August 2011. Florida International Language Academy, the school’s parent company, was simultaneously applying to open a K-8 charter school in Palm Beach County. Curiously, the organization claimed, in its application to Palm Beach, that it wasn’t applying elsewhere. “Per the listing of applicants filed with the State of Florida,” Palm Beach County Board of Education documents reads, “FILA has not submitted an application with any other county, nor do they have a charter school presently operating in the State of Florida.”

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13 Responses for “From Food Lion to Charter School: Deal Close To Convert Long-Vacant Flagler Beach Store”

  1. Meh says:

    Yay another charter school. I guess the other ones aren’t showing enough failure… We need a few more…

    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      1 charter school in the county fails, and all of a sudden the other 2, well run charter schools, and this new charter school which has a successful record elsewhere, are also failures? What happens if we apply that same logic to the traditional public schools? 1 fails, therefore they’re all failures?

      The fact that the one charter school failed, shows the oversight works very well, and proves that you can have a charter system that operates somewhat autonomously, yet still have the necessary oversight to ensure a) the students are getting a quality education and b) my tax dollars are not being wasted.

  2. Mary says:

    A non-profit school? How does this benefit our neighborhood? We have all been hoping for something tangible in this space, especially given the long existing low income senior community directly behind and connected to the location. These folks, many of whom have no transportation, used to be able to walk a path unobstructed for their groceries. Now the nearest they have is Publix, which would be fine anyone had bothered to put a crosswalk at the traffic light of John Anderson and SR 100/Moody Boulevard. This is not beneficial to anyone except the school owners. Problems ahead, guaranteed. And yet another blow to our seniors.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    God forbid would have been a “Spanish language” charter school!! Many would have been really raising cane against it! One more charter funded with our taxes supposed for public education and taking away from it to benefit the for profit entities and the very few russian language students other than the whole student body..

    Regarding schools and its current officials and some of them family values, read the next head line and story:
    Will justice would be served here and get another danger to our residents in this county off the streets?
    Maybe depending who she is and the convenient connections will receive just a slap on the wrist? What is going on with some of these officials examples shown?

  4. Flagler Native says:

    Being born and raised here, and there really never being anything for the kids in this area I would have liked to see a “Chuckie Cheese” go in there. If I could I would open one up in this county.

  5. Yellowstone says:

    And I thought they’d turn this into a Skating Rink and Game Center for the PC kids . . . .

  6. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    The property is still available… those of you who want something else in there, go lease it and make it happen!

  7. JGA says:

    I can imagine their first fire drill, kids filing out of the front and back of the building and into the parking lot, who is stopping traffic? This is NOT a good idea!!!

  8. AngryMom says:

    I was hopping for a whole food market to go there. Sent many requests online! They have an amazing fish market!!!!!

  9. John says:

    This is not a school for only the Russian families. The school will simply be teaching Russian as a foreign language to supplement the existing curriculum. Studies have shown a strong coorelation between academic achievement and foreign language proficiency. It will be held to all of the same accountability measures as any other public school. Charter schools are tuition free public schools of choice and operate on FAR less funding than traditional public schools. They must also perform well or risk losing their charters. This will be good for the community, providing another educational option for families in Flagler County.

    • Education First says:

      I believe that we do need more educational opportunities for our community. The more variety of schools’ we have to offer, the more people with families will be willing to relocate to our lovely area, I personally can’t see how this charter school would be taking away from our public schools when from what I see when I am in and out of the schools, they are extremely over crowded, why not provide other options to the families. We need to focus on our youth more in this community, highlight all the wonderful talent that are in the schools, there are a lot of great, great young people with open minds just waiting to absorb the world, the world that I know, and I’m sure many others know, that they want to grasp and take a hold of if provided an opportunity to do so. I do however, agree with the above respondent, that we definitely could use a Whole Foods or even a Big Lots in that location, where ever the school lands, is where the Good Lord wants it. Blessings Education First

    • Kevin Tyler says:

      Yes and the Russian Language is so beautiful to listen to!!! Give me a break,who outside of Russians would want to learn this awful language?

      • Pierre Tristam says:

        Awful language Kevin? Chekhov, Pushkin, Gogol, Turgenev, Goncharvov, Brodsky, Platonov, Shalamov, Solzhenitsyn, awful? And I haven’t even mentioned the other two in that family who barely have their equals in English.

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