FORT MYERS, FL – The groundbreaking ceremony for the Athenian Academy Charter School (AACS) at 18801 Oak Center Drive in Fort Myers took place on November 7, the Fort Myers News-Press reported, noting that “schoolchildren, separated by age group and wearing the blue and white colors of the Greek flag, performed national anthems of the United States and Greece. They also recited the Greek alphabet, Ancient Greece trivia and a song during the groundbreaking ceremony for their new school.”
The two-story, 68,000 square-foot school construction project by LAI Group will cost $15 million and will be ready for the 2020-21 school year, the News-Press reported.
“The walls will be going up in January,” Alex Veloudos, CEO of CHOICE Charter School Services, told the News-Press. “In June or July, we’ll have the ribbon cuttings.”
According to the News-Press, “Principal Wendy Lee previously worked as an administrator at a sibling school in Clearwater” and “the journey to creating the school began four years ago.”
The student body at AACS is expected to increase “from 90 this year to as many as 530 next year with a maximum capacity of 1,060 students,” the News-Press reported.
School founder George Poumakis, 89, was among those present for the groundbreaking ceremony. Born in Spring Lake, NJ, in 1930, he left for Greece in 1932 and then returned to the U.S. where he graduated from John Jay High School in Brooklyn. He moved to Clearwater in 1977 and “recognized the need for a school focusing on foreign languages in 1996… when he visited a charter school in Minnesota to gather ideas and feedback,” the News-Press reported.
The Clearwater school began with Greek immersive studies, i.e. classes taught in Greek, the News-Press reported, adding that “struggling with enrollment, the school soon shifted to teaching classes in English but having a half-hour a day of instruction in either Greek or Spanish.”
“I thought my country in America needed something with the Greek language,” Poumakis told the News-Press. “I’m not talking baklava. I’m talking language and culture. I have to credit my son-in-law (Alex Veloudos) for starting this school. The American child is capable of learning three languages.”
Lee County school board member Melisa Giovannelli was among the speakers spoke at the groundbreaking. “I support charter schools. I like the global aspect of it. These kids are going to have the opportunity to learn more than one language. That’s what Lee County needs. It brings us more global awareness,” she said, the News-Press reported.