Government employees in favor of reopening Clearwater's North Ward Elementary
When the charming, red-brick schoolhouse known as North Ward Elementary closed its doors in 2009, talk about demolishing the school was sacrilegious. Too many of Clearwater's children had been educated there. The building turned 100 last year.
Now, the schoolhouse might be reincarnated with the same small school feel -- perhaps catering to the children of City of Clearwater and Pinellas County government employees as it has in the past.
An online survey went out to those employees in December, and 466 responded with 89 percent in support of reopening the school.
Out of those responses, 77 percent said they would send their child to North Ward if it was a partnership school, which would give preference to children of employees of nearby government offices or businesses instead of having their child enrolled at the zoned school near their residence. Those who responded also placed a heavy emphasis on a robust catalog of before- and after-school programs and clubs, like STEM, robotics, art and music and foreign language.
At Tuesday's school board workshop, Bill Lawrence, the district's director of student demographics, assignment and school capacity, said the school would have 12 classrooms for 232 student seats with additional rooms for electives like art, music and a computer lab. And Clint Herbic, associate superintendent for operational services, said the school is structurally sound and would only require some minor renovations, like paint, a heating and cooling system, new roof and other cosmetic concerns.
"It will be a very small school," Lawrence said. "It is a very small facility and hypothetically it could be filled up with children of employees."
School board chairwoman Peggy O'Shea said many students who lived in the nearby beaches were "disenfranchised" when North Ward closed in 2009 and many left to private schools and charter schools. Lawrence said the district tried to lure them back into public schools with the reopening of Kings Highway and Gulf Beaches elementary schools, which are both schools of choice, not zoned schools.
School board member Linda Lerner also said some students living in the Greenwood area could benefit from a neighborhood school. Perhaps, she suggested, the school could benefit both local children and children of employees.
Superintendent Mike Grego instructed Lawrence and Herbic to take a closer look at the zoned area around North Ward and see if there was a possibility of making it a neighborhood school.