Two years after The Ida Mae Stevens Foundation gave a tract of land – affectionately known as The Woods – to the North Florida School of Special Education, the school’s Board of Directors launched a $6 million vision for a new lower-school campus and a therapeutic equestrian center, already secured with a million-dollar gift.
The capital campaign, which began with a silent phase in mid-2016, had raised $2 million within six months before NFSSE officially kicked it off at its annual Dinner on the Farm fundraiser in the Woods, the five-acre gift which will soon house a 32,000-square-foot campus for grades one to eight. A variety of naming opportunities are available, from the campus itself to one of four horse stalls and much in between.
“Through the Angel of the Woods capital campaign we seek the funds to transform these woods, which are already an extraordinary amenity for our children, into an expanded campus, virtually doubling the school’s footprint,” said John Macdonald, board president. “It is an aggressive step for us. But we are confident that those who join us in the cause – our Angels – will share in the satisfaction of seeing North Florida School of Special Education grow to accommodate more of our community’s most special members.”
NFSSE began offering classes 25 years ago at South Jacksonville Presbyterian Church to three intermediate-age students. Today the school at 223 Mill Creek Road is now home to 120 students in grades one to 12, with 40 students in a post-graduate program, and others age 18-22 receiving help in the transition program.
The new campus will double enrollment, serving children and young adults with a variety of intellectual disabilities and some with physical challenges as well. Integral to the new project is the equestrian center from which students can ride into a portion of the woods to get lost in the wildlife while discovering their authentic self.