Ridgeview Elementary opened in 2000 as a K-5 public school owned and operated by the Polk County School Board. In 2001, Ridgeview submitted a conversion charter application to the Polk County School Board to operate as a charter school serving students in Northeast Polk County, Florida. The school’s charter was first approved in July 2001. Ridgeview Elementary was renamed Ridgeview Global Studies Academy; it opened with 550 students in grades K-5. Due to the school's exceptional instructional staff and student performance, Ridgeview Academy was designated a High-Performing Charter School in July 2011 when the High-Performing Charter Law was enacted. Ridgeview Academy was granted a fifteen-year charter contract with the district as part of this designation.
With the status of a High-Performing Charter School, Ridgeview was allowed to add a grade per year without going through a formal approval process by its District. Due to the rapid growth in the Northeast part of the county and many requests from the Ridgeview parents, the Ridgeview Academy School Board approved the addition of sixth grade in 2015. At this time, Ridgeview also asked the Polk County School Board to approve the addition of a middle school building on the additional acreage where the elementary school is located which the Polk County School Board owns.
Since this permission was denied, the Ridgeview Administration contacted the owner of vacant land adjacent to the elementary campus about purchasing a fifteen-acre tract from him. After formal negotiation, on October 13, 2015, the Ridgeview Academy School Board approved the purchase of fifteen acres adjacent to the elementary campus. Since Ridgeview is in an area designated as rural by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Ridgeview applied for and was approved to receive a USDA Rural Development loan to construct five buildings to house its middle school students. It took more than two years to get the loan approved, but it was worth the wait. Ridgeview was given a forty-year loan for $12,545,000.00 with a 3.25% fixed interest rate.
During the time of this purchase and construction, Ridgeview added grades 7 and 8 and housed them along with the 6th grade in leased portables on the Polk County School Board property where the elementary was located. In 2018, Ridgeview Global Studies Academy opened its new middle school campus. It became the first (to the best of its knowledge) hybrid conversion charter school in the state (hybrid meaning a conversion charter school owned by the District and a start-up charter school owned by Ridgeview Academy). When Ridgeview opened its middle school campus, the total student population increased to 1,240 students in grades K-8.
Ridgeview’s new buildings provided for grades 6, 7, and 8 with accessory spaces, an administration area, a band room, a multi-purpose/student dining room with a full-service kitchen, and a gymnasium with boys’ and girls’ locker rooms. The design included seven (7) classrooms for each grade (one of which is a science demonstration type classroom) for a total of twenty-one (21) regular classrooms, a culinary arts classroom and an additional elective classroom. The gymnasium included one full-size basketball court and telescoping bleachers. The administrative, band and classroom/academics buildings added approximately 38,000 SF – 40,000 SF; the multi-purpose dining/kitchen and gymnasium buildings added approximately 16,000 – 18,000 SF.
In 2019, Ridgeview Global Studies Academy’s School Board voted to add grades 9-12. Due to the county’s phenomenal growth, particularly in the Northeast region, Ridgeview Academy had a waiting list of 1,500 students. Parents had been requesting the expansion into the upper grades so their children could continue receiving a quality education.
Once again, Ridgeview Academy approached the USDA for a loan to construct the high school building. The USDA approved Ridgeview’s request for a $4,993,700.00 loan for 40 years with a 2.25% fixed interest rate. In January 2022, Ridgeview Academy opened its two-story high school building, designed for grades 9-12, with 11 classrooms, a science lab, a multi-purpose/student dining room, and an administrative office. Total building space added approximately 21,000 SF. A synthetic turf soccer field was also included in this addition.
Located in Northeast Polk County, Florida, in the Four Corners area (meaning the intersection where Polk County, Osceola County, Lake County, and Orange County meet) and also considered the fastest growing area of Polk County, Ridgeview Global Studies Academy has seen its surrounding population explode from a rural, bucolic area to a thriving, suburban one. Because of this growth, Ridgeview Academy has seen its enrollment go from 550 students in 2001 to 1,550 students in 2022. Ridgeview Academy has over 1,500 students on waiting lists.
The demographics are reflective of the community that Ridgeview serves. Ridgeview Academy has been designated a Title I school based on its percentage of free and reduced lunch students. The current percentage is over 88% for free and reduced lunch students. Ridgeview’s ESE and ELL populations have also increased. There are currently 285 students receiving ESE services, comprising 19% of its population, and 150 students receiving ELL services, comprising 10% of its population.
Ridgeview Academy has students from over 50 countries. The primary language is English, with Spanish a close second. In Ridgeview Academy’s Global Studies class, all students in grades K-5 are taught about diversity and cultures from around the world.