By Bonnie Mentel

Foundation Christian Academy has big plans to expand its campus in the coming years. The school, which is affiliated with the Church of Christ denomination, will have three phases of construction and development.

“The expansion has been a long time coming, it seems like. The school was incorporated in 1992 and we met in the fellowship hall classrooms at Bell Shoals Church of Christ. We lived there and grew until the early 2000s when we started discussions about the need for expansion. We purchased property here on Lithia. That was a six-acre expansion and we opened the doors to this facility in January 2005,” said High School Principal Jonathan Smith.

The school enrollment has increased 4-5 percent each year since they’ve been on Lithia Pinecrest Road. Last year the school experienced an 18 percent spike in enrollment. The enrollment currently stands at 384 students in grades pre-Kindergarten through twelfth grade.

As part of the expansion, the school has purchased an additional 20 acres to the east of their existing property. The plans include building a Centerplex, which will be the hub of the campus.

“Phase One regards the Centerplex. The Centerplex is going to be in addition to a gymnasium, locker rooms, office. We’re doing a fine arts suite, with a band and orchestra room attached to a stage. On the other side of the stage we’re going to have a drama theater course, and a speech and debate classroom,” said Smith.

Phase One will include high school classrooms attached to the back of the Centerplex. It is expected to be ready in August.

“Phase Two is an improvement on our athletic facilities. Currently on that property, we have a soccer field and a flag football field. Our expansion will include a track, baseball facility, softball facility, lighting, and scoreboards, and an interesting little press box, in the middle of all the fields. It’s a two-story structure and from the top floor you’ll be able to view all fields. We’ll also improve the seating in the bleachers, but we’re currently competing on those fields, for elementary, middle school, and high school teams,” he said.

The elementary and middle school are members of the Tampa Bay Christian Athletic League, which used to be known as the Brandon Christian Athletic League. Their teams compete against local Christian schools in the area.

“When we opened high school in 2008 and we started enrolling our first high school students, we had a decision to either join one of the Christian conferences for the state of Florida or become members of the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA). FHSAA is the state’s top athletic organization and all the public schools compete in FHSAA for the purpose of being as competitive as we can in high school,” Smith said.

The school made the decision to become members of FHSAA.

“That decision paid off for us last year because we had two students receive athletic scholarships in college,” Smith shared.

Phase Three is the addition of a separate building to house middle school and high school students. It will also be to the east of the existing property. Once that phase is complete, the current campus will become a preschool and elementary campus. Across the bridge, or creek, the middle school and high school will have their own campus.

“For next year, we could be at 360-385 student population based on the tours that we give. I would imagine that all the private schools in this area are receiving a lot of tours. We’re doing between six to eight tours per day. We did 61 tours in the month of January, and that’s a shorter month because we came back from holidays and we don’t do tours during exam weeks. There are a lot of people out there looking for Christian schools,” he said.

The expansion has been funded mostly through donation-based fundraising events. The school met their goal of $1.5 million for Phase One last year. Smith said that the campaign will continue into subsequent years.

“The nickname that we’ve given the project is the Vision 20/20 campaign. Initially, when we started discussions, we thought by the year 2020 we could have all three phases complete. Of course, that depends on enrollment. If we start to see spikes of 18 percent in consecutive years that vision 20/20 might end up being Vision 20/17 or 20/18,” he said.

Although Smith said that the total capacity of the school could accommodate 700 students once all the phases are complete, he mentioned that it was not their goal to have the largest Christian school.

“What we remind ourselves every day is that we are shaping lives to light the world. That’s what we show up for every day. That reminds us that we’re here for a higher purpose. All of my teachers are mission-minded people. This is a personal mission as well as an organizational mission. It’s just a blessing to be around these kids in this school every day,” Smith said.

For more info about Foundation Christian Academy, located at 3955 Lithia Pinecrest Rd. in Valrico, visit www.foundationchristianacademy.org or by calling 654-2969. FCA is currently enrolling for the 2016-2017 school year.