Pinellas mulls bringing two closed school sites back to life
Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos made a special appearance at Tuesday’s Pinellas County school board workshop to propose reviving the city’s defunct North Ward Elementary school.
Cretekos said the city commissioned the Urban Land Institute to review the areas of downtown and the north marina district, including Francis Wilson Playhouse, Clearwater Garden Club, Seminole Boat Ramps and North Ward. He said the area was identified “as an area that could be redeveloped in some form.”
“A lot of those areas have been languishing,” he said.
The city has hosted several meetings in regards to North Ward, and Cretekos said interest in using the site for an educational purpose is growing in the community.
“I think in their heart of hearts if you tell them we’re going to focus on education on that property in some form,” Cretekos said, “I think the community would really embrace that. And I think it would go a long way in helping us redevelop that area.”
School Board chairwoman Linda Lerner voiced her support of a partnership with the city and using the site for an educational purpose, but said the district should take a hard look on how many seats are needed. Discussion among board members grew into whether a school at the site would be a neighborhood school or not zoned at all.
District superintendent Mike Grego suggested conducting a survey to see if reviving the school would be the appropriate action.
North Ward served about 350 students from the beaches, south downtown Clearwater and off the bridge of Alt-19 before it closed for budgetary reasons in June 2009. The district then rezoned those students to Sandy Lane and Kings Highway elementary schools.
Clint Herbic, associate superintendent of operational services for the district, also reported to the board that the YMCA has expressed interest in building a location on the land of the now-bulldozed Riveria Middle School. Herbic suggested that some type of school will be adjacent to the YMCA so that students and parents can enjoy pre- and after-school care.
Herbic said the YMCA would conduct a survey of the neighborhood to find out how families would use the Y.
School board member Rene Flowers piped up lamenting that Riviera’s former neighborhood is already traffic-congested.
“I’m just saying that the neighborhood has been adamantly opposed to anything that will increase traffic in that spot,” she said, adding that she was open to conducting a feasibility study.
Grego mentioned that the area lacks a middle school, and that parents’ closest option is Meadowlawn Middle, which is already overcrowded.
Flowers said she could not support building a brand new school when a capital outlay plan totaling $94.5 million in existing renovations for schools was discussed earlier in the workshop.