CARP – The former Venta Preparatory School property is now being used for what it was always meant to be – a place of learning.
Aspire Academy opened its doors early this fall billed as an “innovative education for exceptional learners.”
The learning academy has four students but expects to grow to 50 in a year’s time. It’s been a whirlwind since opening the doors last October.
“Oh my gosh, we can’t even. The stars aligned for us,” Aspire Academy director of clinical development Kim Moore told West Carleton Online from the academy Wednesday, Nov. 20. “We had just started uttering the word school when this opportunity came up. We thought we would have to start in a church.”
Aspire Academy focuses on students with exceptionalities – autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and giftedness.
“The kids not fitting in to a typical school setting for whatever reason,” Moore said.
Moore was looking for a place to launch her vision, and being a Carp resident, had an interest in the Venta property.
“Fred (Carmosino) and Brian (Saumure – owners of Maple Leaf Custom Homes) out of Dunrobin had bought the property,” Moore said. “So, I called them up and asked, ‘what are you doing with the property?’ They said they were looking to lease it.”
Aspire was able to open its doors in early October and continue to renovate the property to fit the vision Moore has in mind.
Moore, along with director of school development Ashley Hayes, director of culture and success Emily Pym and head teacher Kris Bissell were able to get the former school ready to host students in a safe and inspiring environment while continuing to build and prepare to grow.
That vision is to create a school environment for students who have long been marginalized in the current school board model.
“They belong here,” Hayes said. “They are not a kid with a special need. They’re just a student here. Parents with kids with special needs don’t always get the full school experience. We will have a parent council, we will have Christmas concerts and special events.”
The academy has a Kindergarten program referred to as Aspire Beginnings, an elementary program, intensive teaching, music and art, physical and outdoor education and before and after-hours programming.
Moore says Aspire is a one-stop location for parents and their special need children.
“The kids are kind of getting everything they need,” Moore said. “Parents won’t need to be running to appointments after school every day.”
Meanwhile, work continues on creating a place that fits its founders’ goals and dreams.
“We came in in September and started working,” Moore said. “On Thanksgiving weekend we brought our families in and painted and set classrooms. Fred didn’t think we were going to get it done. There’s a real love for the students here. We didn’t even have to ask for help. The support has been incredible.”
“It’s beautiful,” Hayes said. “This place is being used for what it was originally designed for.”
The academy already has a number of classrooms in full operation including SMART board technology. The art room, the same as Venta’s, is operating as well. The crew is still working on turning the auditorium in to a gym and already has the new floor down. They even plan to bring back the outdoor skating rink.
Next May Aspire will apply for school status with the Ministry of Education. A school has to have at least six students to apply. The interest from the community is there too – the staff have already given more than 50 tours to prospective parents coming as far away as Brockville.
“Parents are desperately looking for a place for their kids to belong,” Moore said. “This academy is pretty unique in eastern Ontario.”
Currently they have capacity for five classes.
“There’s lots of room to expand and Maple Leaf Custom Homes has been so accommodating,” Moore said. “The property has so much potential.”
Maple Leaf’s Carmosino is equally excited with the new tenants.
“These girls are doing a fantastic job,” he told West Carleton Online. “It’s so great to see it being used for what it was originally designed for. We’re really happy they’re here, we know what this place meant to the community. As we heard some of the stories, it became more and more apparent it should be used as a school.”
Currently there are four students in the Grade 1 to 4 range attending Aspire Academy. Aspire will be launching its Kindergarten program in January with two more students. The academy has a ‘rolling enrollment’ meaning students can begin attending at any time. The academy will be able to accommodate up to 100 students with a ratio of one teacher and two early childhood educators for every 10 students, but Moore expects the academy will cap enrollment at 50 for the time being.
For more information on Aspire Academy, click here.