An old Sweetbay store is being transformed into a new charter school in Valrico.

By Brad Stager

The new charter school, Navigator Academy, opened in time for the new school season in August 2019. Applications are currently being accepted until Friday, January 17 at for the 2020/21 school year.

Registration is via a lottery system. The first lottery will take place on Friday, January 24.

Original Story printed March 2019.

Where Valrico customers once shopped for food to put on the table a new tuition-free public charter school is taking shape to nourish young minds.

Navigator Academy of Leadership, a K-8 school with a SMART curriculum emphasizing science, math, art, reading and technology with an expected enrollment of about 1,000 students, will be housed in the long-vacant 58,505 sq. ft. former Sweetbay supermarket at 1101 Bloomingdale Ave. in Valrico just east of Bell Shoals Rd.

The conversion is being done by MG3 Developer Group of Hollywood, Florida. MG3 has developed several charter school projects throughout the state, including BridgePrep Academy of Riverview.

According to Melissa Prado Aguilar, who is part of the educational services provider team for the school, the end result of the transition from an unused supermarket will be a high-quality facility appropriate for education when it opens in the fall.

“It allows us to repurpose a building that’s been a hidden eyesore,” she said of the property that has been unoccupied since 2009. “There’s been a lot of due diligence by the developer for this.”

As a Hillsborough County district public charter school, Navigator Academy follows state mandated standards in curriculum content and assessment. Students will take standardized tests, but preparation for those exams are not the school’s focus, according to Ivan Hernandez, who works with Aguilar to manage the academy’s academics.

The curriculum also includes art and music instruction to complement technology offerings that range from robotics to space exploration.

The school’s location will help fulfill the educational needs of the growing number of families in the area, said Aguilar.

“It seems parents in this area want choice.”

For more information,visit or call 863-866-7566.

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