DeeDee Johnson

Wesley Chapel’s newest high school — the Kirkland Ranch Academy of Innovation (KRAI), which opens this month to 9th and 10th graders for the 2022-23 school year — held its inaugural student orientation, known as the “Navigator Kickoff,” on July 29.

Although we weren’t on hand for the kickoff, we wanted to welcome Wesley Chapel’s fourth high school to the community. Although KRAI isn’t a charter school, it is a Pasco school choice magnet school, and students have to apply for attendance by lottery.   

The school, which is located north of the entrance to the Watergrass community (and south of the Innovation Prep K-7 charter school) at 32555 Innovation Dr., off Curley Rd., “was built to provide students with an educational opportunity unlike any other,” according to its website ( Every year after this year’s inaugural school year, KRAI will add a grade level until becoming a full-fledged 9-12 high school.

Kirkland Ranch offers ten in-demand and innovative programs structured to include an integrated business curriculum that offers a diverse learning experience focused on helping students develop dynamic skillsets that lead to high-paying careers. The ten programs are: Automotive (Diesel), Biomedical Sciences, Building Trades & Construction Technology, Cybersecurity, Digital Media, Electricity, Engineering & Applied Robotics, Patient Care Technology and Welding Technology Fundamentals. If you want to be ready for college, career, and life right out of high school, KRAI is the place to be!

KRAI’s principal is DeeDee Johnson, who previously was the principal at Wesley Chapel High and most recently Pasco Middle School in Dade City, before transitioning to oversee the opening of KRAI.

“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.” 

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