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Charter school relocates to Lehigh
August 16, 2017

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A Lee County School District-approved charter school has relocated to Lehigh Acres.

The Donna J. Beasley Technical Academy kicked off the new school year in a new location, renting space from the First Presbyterian Church of Lehigh Acres, at 60 Bell Blvd. Previously located in Fort Myers, the decision to relocate was based on the fact the majority of its students come from Lehigh.

"We were in a location that, unfortunately, it was inconvenient for some folks from Fort Myers and Lehigh to come to," Principal Dr. Joe Torregrasso said. "Over the last four years, we looked at our enrollment and currently about 85 percent are from the Lehigh community."

Officials chose the new school site the old-fashioned way - simply driving around.

"I just got in my car and looked around. Banged on some doors," he said. "I can't say it was rocket science."

After considering some options, officials decided to go with the church.

"We were lucky enough that the church here had space to rent," Torregrasso said.

He added that parents have voiced support for the relocation.

"They're excited. Their kids have a shorter distance to go to school," Torregrasso said. "We have committed to the Lehigh community."

Donna J. Beasley is a high school and consists of ninth grade through 12th grade. According to the district's website, it had 142 students during the 2016-17 school year and it is a Title 1 school.

Officials explained that the program is similar to others, but it is also unique.

"What makes us unique is our partnership with Tri-County Apprenticeship Academy," he said, noting that it was Tri-County's vision to open Donna J. Beasley. "We offer the beginning coursework for the national certification for trades."

The school offers the first, and sometimes the second, year of courses. Upon completion, students can present their certificate to Tri-County or its 200 affiliates and gain employment right out of school.

"Once these individuals gain that employment, it'll be a full-time job with benefits right out of high school," Torregrasso said. "You're looking at a career."

Donna J. Beasley offers pre-apprenticeship in the trades of electrical, heating, air conditioning and plumbing. All of the curriculum is online and the school uses the Apex Learning Virtual School.

"Apex is a very student-friendly curriculum," he said. "It allows a student to work at their own pace. No time is a student frustrated by being held back or full of anxiety trying to keep up with others."

According to Torregrasso, the majority of the students enrolled at Donna J. Beasley are transfers from traditional high schools. The students may have fallen behind or underachieved at their old school.

"They may have slipped through the cracks," Torregrasso said.

Donna J. Beasley helps students who have trouble keeping up their GPA and credits.

"We're hoping to give them a second chance," he said.

The school offers open enrollment from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit: www.djbtechnicalacademy.org/ or call 239-476-9100.

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