When Dr. Kiran C. Patel Elementary School opens this fall, it will complete the campus that currently houses Patel High School for students in grades 9-12 and Terrace Community Middle School for students in grades 6-8.
The 32-acre campus is located on Raulerson Ranch Rd. and is visible from I-75 near E. Fowler Ave, just 15 minutes south of New Tampa.
Patel High opened its doors for the 2019-20 school year and has continued to increase in popularity, with 450 students already signed up with hopes of being chosen by lottery to fill one of the 150 available slots at the school for the 2022-23 school year.
Terrace Community Middle School has been operating for more than 20 years and moved onto the Patel campus at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year in August.
After establishing the high school and working to bring the middle school onto the campus, Dr. Kiran C. Patel has turned his attention to younger students with the latest campus expansion.
“I think education in the formative years is what will create the future for anybody,” says Dr. Patel, a local entrepreneur and philanthropist who is both the founder and financier of the school. “Here we have an educational institution that focuses on a well-rounded person who has qualities of being a better human being. We don’t just focus on the grade of the school. There’s no question we want students to achieve a high standard of measurable goals, but there’s a lot more to education than that.”
After initially committing $20 million to launch the high school, Dr. Kiran has spent another $20 million to build the elementary school and has spent an additional $5 million on upgrades to the campus, such as adding a covered outdoor court and restrooms by the sports fields. The Tampa resident’s business enterprises include luxury real estate development, medical software, healthcare solutions and commercial property acquisition and management. The success of these businesses allows him to make impactful contributions on a global scale, which he has done through the establishment of schools, colleges and hospitals on three continents.
“Construction on the elementary school was completed this summer,” says Ash Bagdy, who is a co-founder of the school, along with his wife, Kavita Jain, and Sonali Judd, who is Dr. Patel’s daughter.
Bagdy explains that the 84,000-sq.-ft. building is L-shaped. The elementary school is housed in one half and the middle school in the other. The two schools are completely separated with no interaction and TCMS remains a completely independent charter school.
Bagdy also says the campus was built with security in mind. Classrooms have key card entries, there are security cameras, a school security officer, and the school can be locked down in an emergency, with “one click to lock all doors.”
About The Elementary School
New Tampa’s Ashley Galfond has been hired as the first-ever principal of Patel Elementary.
Galfond was most recently the assistant principal at Chiles Elementary in Tampa Palms. She taught elementary school since her graduation from USF in 1998 until she moved into school administration seven years ago.
While she says it was not an easy decision to leave Chiles, she is extremely excited about the smaller focus at Patel.
“I like that everything within the organization is focused on the kids of Patel Elementary,” she says. “Here, everyone who has any stake in the school is just focused on our students.”
In fall 2022, the school will open with students in just three grades — kindergarten, first and second grade.
“Each year, as those children move to the next grade,” Galfond says, “we will add that grade until — four years from now — we will have K through five.”
Patel Elementary will open with a total of 270 students. There will be five classes in each of the three grades.
Each class will be limited to just 18 students. Although the physical size of each of the classrooms was expanded just before construction, it was to allow kids to spread out more for physical distancing because of Covid, not to make space for more kids in each classroom.
The Three ‘Pillars’
Galfond says that faculty members explain to parents and students that there are three crucial “pillars” at Patel Elementary.
“First,” she says, “we will focus on the whole child, including mental, physical and academic health and growth, with great outdoor learning opportunities as well as in the classroom.”
The second pillar, she says, is social emotional learning, which will be woven into the academic curriculum every day. Galfond explains that this includes teaching children to support one another, helping them to learn to express their own opinions and views, and figure out ways to calm themselves when they become upset. She adds that teacher training is a crucial part of the program.
The third pillar, according to Galfond, is project-based learning.
“It is inquiry-based,” she says. “We start with a question to engage students – something that affects the community in some way — and then, all disciplines are tied in to solve the problem, from reading to science to math.”
Dr. Patel notes that while academic achievement will be emphasized, it is not the only measure of success for the students who attend Patel Elementary.
“We will have a holistic approach and the goal of producing a student who is going to be an asset to the community,” explains Dr. Patel. “The purpose of education should not be to become a CEO. That should not be the primary goal, but to say that I will be a better human being and leave the earth better than I found it.”
Students Chosen By Lottery
Parents whose students will be entering kindergarten through second grade for the 2022-23 school year and are interested in attending Patel Elementary must apply online at PatelElementary.org. Students are chosen to attend the school through a random lottery process.
“This is the year with the best chance to get in,” explains Galfond. “It’s the most spots we will ever have.”
Every Tuesday in January, at 6 p.m., the school will host a new applicant Open House where families can meet the principal, with food and drinks provided.
“I am excited that everything materialized,” says Dr. Patel. “It was a big, big endeavor. I am very happy and proud to provide this option to the community.”
Patel Elementary is located at 10739 Raulerson Ranch Rd. in Tampa. To apply online for a spot for the 2022-23 school year, visit PatelElementary.org. For more information, call (813) 444-0660 or see the ad on page 21.