SRQ Magazine | February 2017
A swooping, curved rooftop extends across the new upper campus for NewGate School. In a building once designed to empower cancer survivors with knowledge, the older students at NewGate School will now finish their high school educations. “The incredible design and beauty of the thing makes this building just as useful as a life-affirming school,” beams Tim Seldin, headmaster for NewGate, the region’s most prominent Montessori-style private school.
The opportunity to purchase the facility that once housed the Center for Building Hope came as a surprise to NewGate staff, but was an opportunity impossible to pass up. The property became available after a rather high-profile financial meltdown for the Center for Building Hope. Misappropriations led to the decision last year for the center to send all of its clients to Jewish and Family Services for service and to leave the building, constructed in Lakewood Ranch 2011. Seldin Properties-Texas, an entity controlled by Seldin, in September purchased the property from Dearborn Street Holdings for $2.3 million, about $25,000 less than its current appraised value, according to Sarasota County property records. The move gives the school a long-desired opportunity to expand in size. Currently, roughly 150 students study at the existing NewGate campus on Ashton Road. Andrew Cutler, chairman of the board for NewGate, says this expansion onto a second campus marks the school’s own financial turning point. Officials have longed for a way to fund a major expansion, but couldn’t do so without expanding enrollment beyond the 150 or so allowable on the current Ashton Road campus. “We’ve been confronted with what is really a good problem to have,” he says. “We have outgrown our space.”
About 40 of the upper-level students at the K-12 school will move to the new campus. The upper campus will now serve students from 7th through 12th grade. A big appeal for the school was that the new building was ready to use and will require no major construction before it can be effectively employed. And it’s an open environment well suited for the individual-focused Montessori. Standard classrooms, Seldin says, too often “make you feel small” and hamper education. The growth puts a demand on parents. Parents have promised to raise some $500,000 to help pay for the school’s operations in its first three years, Cutler says. The school has also purchased a new shuttle bus to run between the campuses.
A potential downside, Seldin readily admits, is dividing the elementary-age students from high school counterparts. The community campus always led to educational synergy, with younger pupils having older ones to look up to and model behavior upon. But that loss was outweighed, Seldin says, by the chance to expand elementary operations on the existing campus. And as the school looks at a long-term plan of growing to serve 400-450 students, this expansion marks an important step in that direction. “This all has happened because of a beautiful and tangible opportunity with this property,” Seldin says.
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