School at Family Church gets OK to expand


The Family Church's preschool at Southwest 122nd Street requested an exception to build a private school and childcare center in a lot that's designated for agricultural use.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 7:54 p.m.

The Academy School at the Family Church will expand to include a kindergarten class in the fall.

The Alachua County Planning Commission on Wednesday approved a special exception for a child care center and a special-use permit for a private school on the church's 35-acre plot, which had been designated for agricultural use.

The Family Church, 2022 SW 122nd St., previously received a permit to operate on the plot as long as its building didn't exceed 5,000 square feet. The church opened a preschool three years ago.

Kent Young, church administrator of the preschool, said the Family Church has no plans to develop the rest of the plot.

But a kindergarten class at the church would be considered a private school, which requires a special permit from the county. Preschools do not need the permit.

Jerry Brewington, senior planner with the Alachua County Growth Management Department, initially asked commissioners to approve a special-use permit for a private school for kindergarten through third grade, in case the church wanted to expand the school in the future.

Commissioner Gunnar Paulson disapproved, saying students begin high-stakes testing in third grade. If they continued to Alachua County public schools after third grade, there would be no way to track their previous learning.

"I think all schools should have accountability measures," Paulson said.

Young agreed to a special-use permit for kindergarten through second grade instead.

"There's no intent right now of the school board or the elders of our church to go past kindergarten," or at least not for several years, he said.

Parents of current preschoolers had asked the church to open a kindergarten class, Young said.

Of the 70 to 80 children in the preschool, about 12 will make up the kindergarten class in the fall.

The special-use permit allows the school to expand up to 125 students, although Young said the school will cap enrollment at 100 to 105 children.

The preschool will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and the kindergarten will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Both are acceptable under county rules, Brewington said.

A few neighbors had expressed concerns about traffic along Southwest 122nd Street, but Young said the enrollment of the school will stay low enough that there should be no congestion.

A hearing with the Alachua County Commission is scheduled for Aug. 13.

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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