When school starts back up again this August for the 2019-20 school year, 300 ninth graders will walk the halls of a brand new charter high school being built just off E. Fowler Ave. near I-75.
The tuition-free charter school is open to any student who is close enough to commute, including those who live in Pasco County.
“The goal is to provide an option to students who may be limited in the curriculum and extracurricular activities in their present environment,” explains Dr. Kiran C. Patel, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist who is the school’s founder.
The school is officially called Dr. Kiran C. Patel High School, but will be called Patel High. “Simply because you belong to a certain neighborhood should not force you to stay in that neighborhood [for school],” he says. “We are providing a choice.”
Dr. Patel — or “Dr. K,” as he is affectionately called — committed $20 million to launch the school. The Tampa resident’s business enterprises include luxury real estate development, medical software, health care solutions and commercial property acquisition and management. The success of these businesses has allowed him to make impactful contributions on a global scale, which he has done through the establishment of schools, colleges and hospitals on three continents.
“Dr. K is the epitome of compassion, community service and humanitarian efforts,” says Ashok Bagdy, a New Tampa resident and a co-founder of the school, along with Bagdy’s wife, Kavita Jain, and Sonali Judd, who is Dr. Patel’s daughter. “He has made a tremendous impact on the two things that matter most — education and health care. His contributions have been inspirational, transformational and generational.”
Dr. Patel is much more than just a benefactor, as he will be very involved with the institution that bears his name, hoping to impart some of his personal philosophy to the students who will attend.
“Today’s world is focused on human rights,” Dr. Patel explains, “but nobody is focused on human responsibility. It’s that aspect that’s more important than your rights. What is your responsibility to your neighbor? You may have a right to do anything you want, but is that the responsible thing to do?”
Students at Patel High will learn about responsibility through mentorship programs, opportunities for leadership and social projects that allow students, “to be contributing members of society at an early age,” says Dr. Patel.
About The School
Patel High’s inaugural class will consist of 300 freshmen. In future years, new freshman classes will be added, with the planned capacity of the school to be just 600 students total in grades nine through 12.
The school will offer an advanced curriculum and focus on the school’s mission statement, which emphasizes up-to-date knowledge and skills, personalized and innovative instruction, partnerships between the school and the community, social responsibility and leadership.
Mentors from throughout the community will work with students to give them the opportunity to explore potential career interests, community outreach and real-world applications.
Students will experience project-based learning, a teaching method in which they gain knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to complex questions, problems or challenges. Students learn to take initiative, build confidence, solve problems, work in teams, communicate ideas, and manage time.
The school’s lunch period will be called “Power Hour,” where students not only eat, but have extended time and opportunities to participate in open labs, clubs, tutoring, intensive intervention, or other academically enriching choices. They will be able to meet with teachers, catch up on assignments, and collaborate on projects with peers.
Don’t Flip Out!
Patel High School also will use what’s called a “flipped classroom” approach when appropriate, meaning that instructional content is delivered outside of the classroom, often online, while moving other activities into the classroom.
In a flipped classroom, students may watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, or carry out research at home. Then, they interactively engage in concepts in the classroom to clarify and apply that knowledge, giving teachers the opportunity to guide their students to deeper thinking and higher levels of application.
Not only will Patel High be unique in its curriculum, schedule and students’ engagement with the outside world, it also is unique in its space design and flexible seating for students.
“It’s an opportunity for students to be in a brand new school with the most updated security features,” explains Bagdy, “It’s on a beautiful 32 acres, right off of I-75, and will have 67,000 square feet of building, including an 11,000-square-foot gym, for only 600 students.”
He says the school will have world-class facilities, including a gathering place they refer to as a “wow space,” an amphitheater, and innovative touches such as movable walls so teams of teachers can adjust how they use their classrooms.
The school also includes a music room, soccer field, baseball field and tennis courts. As to exactly what sports and music programs will be offered at Patel High, Bagdy says that will be left up to the students.
“It’s a student-driven school, and it’s a blank slate,” he says. “They’ll decide on the mascot, clubs and sports.”
A national search to hire a principal brought in 250 resumes and ultimately led the school’s board to select a candidate from right here in Tampa. Marlee Strawn was most recently assistant principal of curriculum at Bell Creek Academy 6-12 Charter School in Riverview, where she created and implemented a High School Cambridge Advanced International Certificate of Education (AICE) curriculum. The Cambridge curriculum also will be used at Patel High.
Students Chosen By Lottery
Students who will be entering the ninth grade next school year and who are interested in attending Patel High must apply online at PatelHighSchool.org. Students are chosen to attend the school through a random lottery process.
“This is a lottery system; anybody can put their name in the hat,” says Dr. Patel. “We are not selective in identifying a segment of society by color or economic status or anything like that.”
While New Tampa and Wesley Chapel residents are invited to apply to the Patel High lottery, preference will be given to students in Hillsborough County. There are currently seats still available for this fall’s class.