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Middle School groundbreaking

FSC breaks ground for Roberts Academy Middle School expansion

Mar 11, 2020

On March 10, Florida Southern President Anne Kerr and members of the College’s Board of Trustees joined with special guests, faculty members, and staff – as well as Roberts Academy instructors, students and their family members – to celebrate with an official groundbreaking for a third facility at the Academy.

Roberts Academy students
Members of the current student body at Roberts Academy attended the official groundbreaking for the school’s third building, which will significantly expand the size and scope of facilities for middle-school grades.
Hard hats
Roberts Academy seventh grader Madilyn Chappell, from left, and Drs. Hal and Marjorie Roberts don hard hats before participating in the official groundbreaking for the new Roberts Academy Middle School at Florida Southern College.

The new building, which represents a significant expansion of the Roberts Academy Middle School, has a projected completion date of August 2020.

Roberts Academy is the first transitional school for children with dyslexia in the state of Florida and one of only a few such comprehensive schools in the United States. Students in Grades 2 through 8 who experience difficulty in reading, writing, and spelling as a result of dyslexia can attend the Roberts Academy until they have mastered the skills they need to succeed.

The planned two-story, 22,000-square-foot building will include state-of-the-art mathematics and science/computer labs, its own cafeteria, a large patio area designed for outside reading, writing, and collaborative study, nine new classrooms, and additional office space for instructors and administrative staff. Rodda Construction has begun work on the new building, which will be located directly south of the existing Roberts Academy facilities at the corner of Frank Lloyd Wright Way and Hollingsworth Road. Mike Murphey of The Lunz Group is the project architect.

With the completion of the standalone middle school, Roberts Academy will accommodate as many as 140 students in Grades 6 through 8, nearly doubling its present capacity; the current total student population of 170 includes a middle school population of 78. The academic expansion will also provide extra classroom space for the school’s elementary grades.

Special guests at the groundbreaking event included Roberts Academy founders Drs. Hal and Marjorie Roberts, along with their daughter, Julia Roberts, and her daughter, Anna Taite, from Atlanta. Speaking to those in attendance, Dr. Marjorie Roberts credited Julia as a major inspiration for the Roberts Academy, which opened its doors in 2010. Three of Julia’s children have successfully dealt with learning challenges related to dyslexia.

“This state-of-the-art facility will carry on the vision of Drs. Hal and Marjorie Roberts that began so many years ago,” said Dr. Tracey Tedder, Dean of Education at FSC. “It is due to their keen insight and generosity that the lives of so many children and their families have changed in ways they never dreamed would be possible.”

Madilyn Chappell, 12, a seventh-grade student at Roberts Academy, also spoke at the groundbreaking event, expressing her personal gratitude for the school’s dedication to helping children succeed. “My journey began in the third grade when I was eight years old,” Madilyn said. “If it was not for the support of Mr. and Mrs. Roberts, I would not be here today. Because of their kindness, I have had the advantage to learn and grow in a wonderful environment which has taught me to love school.”

Madilyn’s mother, Sarah Chappell, later emphasized the importance of Roberts Academy’s supportive and nurturing approach to learning, which has made her daughter’s school experience “a happy success, versus a difficult struggle.” Several other parents of current students also reflected on the life-changing effectiveness of the Academy’s teaching methods, while noting the importance of the middle-school expansion.

Julie Walding, whose daughter Chloe is a third grader in her second year at the Academy, described how Chloe’s classroom experiences have boosted her confidence and self-esteem. “She’s a different person today,” Mrs. Walding said. “When she came to the school, she couldn’t read at all, and now she’s reading fluently.”

Linde Widick, whose son Isaac is in the same third-grade class as Chloe, recalled a change in Isaac’s outlook after his first month at the Academy. “After making the transition, he never looked back,” Mrs. Widick said. “He told me, ‘I can be happy here; they have what I need.’ And then it was full speed ahead.” 

Artist's rendering
With a projected completion date of August 2020, the new Roberts Academy Middle School will accommodate as many as 140 students in Grades 6 through 8. The 22,000-square-foot building –designed by The Lunz Group and being built by Rodda Construction – will include a mathematics lab, a science/computer lab, nine new classrooms, added office space for instructors and staff, and a cafeteria.
Participants in the March 10 groundbreaking for the new Roberts Academy Middle School were, from left: Mike Murphey, project architect with The Lunz Group; Steve Buck, FSC Trustee and Chairman of the Buildings and Grounds Committee; the Rev. Dr. John Fullerton, Senior Pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lakeland; Madilyn Chappell, Roberts Academy student; Dr. Hal Roberts, FSC Trustee; Dr. Marjorie Roberts, FSC Trustee; Dr. Tracey Tedder, FSC Dean of Education; Dr. Anne Kerr, FSC President; Terry Dennis, FSC Vice President of Finance and Administration; Jason Rodda, FSC Trustee and CEO and President of Rodda Construction; and Larry Stahl, FSC Trustee and President of the National Alumni Board of Directors (NABD).