High school students looking for an innovative alternative to their neighborhood campus will have a new option this fall.

Pasco County Schools will open its Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI) on Curley Rd., north of the WaterGrass community, for the 2022-23 school year.

The magnet school will initially start with just freshmen and sophomores, but will add a grade each year to serve ninth through twelfth grade.

No students are zoned for attendance at KRAI. Instead, students who are interested in its specialized programs will apply for a lottery. The school plans to prepare students for in-demand, high-salary, high-skill careers.

KRAI’s program options are:

• Applied Cybersecurity & Computer Science Principles

• Automotive Maintenance & Light Repair

• Automotive (Diesel)

• Biomedical Sciences

• Building Trades & Construction Technology

• Electricity

• Digital Media/Multimedia Design

• Engineering & Applied Robotics

• Patient Care Technology

• Welding Technology Fundamentals

DeeDee Johnson (photo) was named the principal of the school last September. The former principal of Wesley Chapel High was serving at Pasco Middle School and transitioned to oversee the opening of the Kirkland Ranch Academy this January.

“I am most excited about the opportunities that it’s going to bring students in the District,” she says, “whether it’s college, career, or preparing them for life.”

She emphasizes that while the school can provide a pathway to an in-demand, high-paying job right after high school, it’s also a great choice for college-focused students.

“There are industry certifications, but also Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment courses,” says Johnson. “It’s going to give students a leg up by having connections with business and community partners.”

She says that one feature students will be excited about is that the school will have a 1:1 ratio of students to electronic devices. She anticipates that all students will be assigned a personal laptop for their own use, with some laptops being specialized to fit their chosen program of study.

The building and its construction are innovative, as well. The school overlooks the property’s large wetland, and was designed with energy efficiency as a priority, and its orientation creates a natural breezeway.

The first lottery for students to apply to attend the school closed in January, after we went to press. However, Johnson says she expects that a second window will open for students to apply later in the spring. To get more information about how to apply for Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation, visit the school’s website at KRAI.pasco.k12.fl.us.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to build from scratch,” says Johnson, “including our school culture – what we’re going to believe and how we’re going to get there.”

Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation is located at 9100 Curley Rd. in Wesley Chapel. For more information, visit KRAI.pasco.k12.fl.us.

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