In 2007, Foundation Academy started something big when it opened its Tilden Road Upper School campus.
Now, it’s time to continue the growth, said Luanne Lumpkins, the school’s director of advancement.
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, school staff, students, donors and members of the community gathered to celebrate the groundbreaking of Foundation’s Tilden campus expansion.
In late October, the Winter Garden City Commission approved the school’s master site plan. Over the next few years, Foundation plans to develop an additional 105,000 square feet as the second phase of its school buildout plan. This would consist of education buildings, a maintenance building, field house, cafeteria and additions to existing buildings.
Currently, the focus is on expansion of the gym and a classroom building, as well as necessary infrastructure to support these additions in the future. That includes roads — including a new entrance out to Mann Road — and paved parking.
The 13-year-old Tilden campus sits on 67 acres and currently serves about 450 students, Foundation Academy President Dave Buckles said.
“About two-and-a-half years ago when we started seeing the growth not only in the community but also in our school, we had to plan how to deal with that growth,” Buckles said. “We started with an expansion of 19,000 square feet that will allow us to put 200-plus students in that area. We have modulars right now on our property that have to go away — it was under a special exception — so this expansion will allow us to relocate those students plus enroll additional students.
“What that allows us to do … is provide this Christ-centered education that allows kids to thrive … and also have the opportunity to excel at AP and dual enrollment classes,” he said. “The classroom expansion will be specialized-science based, so we’ll take our STEAM programs to the next level.”
When complete, Foundation will have room for between 100 and 150 more students at the Tilden campus.
The gym expansion will provide space for a brand-new, state-of-the-art weight room, Buckles said. With the relocation of the weight room, Foundation can expand its current locker rooms to better accommodate students.
“In the future, as we go to build a cafeteria or fine-arts center or other classrooms, we won’t have to go through all of the permitting process and site-plan approvals … to build these buildings, because all of the roads, all of the parking will be in place,” he said. “That’s a big part of the project.”
Working through the process — and in a pandemic, nonetheless — was nerve-wracking for Foundation’s administration. Student enrollment was a concern when COVID-19 hit, but Buckles said the school was fortunate that enrollment only dropped by about 3%. The school also is seeing record numbers of families inquiring and taking tours.
Buckles added that none of this would be possible without Foundation’s families, community support and donors.
“I came to Foundation Academy six years ago, and it was right on the tail end of the recession, and the economy was starting to rebound,” Buckles said. “I’ve been a member of the church that our school is a ministry of for 20-plus years — I actually sat on the planning committee for this property as a church member. … I’m very passionate because I see what these kids get to experience by being a part of Foundation Academy and creating this culture. I find joy in seeing the joy. It’s really been exciting, and it’s been a lot of work.”
Lumpkins told ceremony attendees that the groundbreaking and official start of construction is the culmination of years of hard work to realize Foundation’s dream to become a leading school in the area.
“There is great untapped opportunity, and I … am sure the Lord has great things in store for us,” Lumpkins said. “While we are breaking ground here today, we are actually building a bridge to the future — pursuing unlimited possibilities and discovering untapped potential in our students, our teachers and each other.”
Throughout the growth, Buckles said, Foundation Academy administrators and staff vow to never lose who they are as a school.
“Most people say when they came to Foundation Academy they feel like it’s family, and that’s what we pride ourselves on,” he said. “So, as we look at growing, that’s my promise to our families and our future families. We will never lose that.”