Friday, June 22, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Second life as museum preserves historic South Ward Elementary

Communities often feel a deep attachment to old school buildings, even long after students have moved on to newer schools. But in today's school funding environment, sentimentality must take a back seat to practicality. It costs real money for the School District to secure and maintain empty schools — money that should instead be serving students. So last week Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego recommended, and the School Board approved, leasing one of the county's oldest remaining school buildings, the former South Ward Elementary near downtown Clearwater, to the nonprofit Clearwater Historical Society. Under the 50-year agreement, the historical society will maintain and insure the property on S Fort Harrison Avenue, relieving the School District of that expensive burden.

Grego said that when he was hired in October 2012, the district was maintaining 15 closed school sites, many of them more than 50 years old and some considered historic. The School Board gave him permission to try to sell, lease or reuse the sites, and the list is now down to four.

Grego's goal was to find uses that either had an educational purpose or would serve the community. A few will reopen as special theme schools or charters; others are being sold or leased for community-based uses. The plan for South Ward certainly fulfills that later purpose.

The 4,000-square-foot building at the front of the South Ward site is more than a century old and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The school opened in 1906 and closed in 2008. Now, it will have a second life as a museum.

The Clearwater Historical Society, which occupies cramped space in the historic Plumb House, has been looking for a place to expand. The several buildings on the South Ward campus total 20,000 square feet. The historical society envisions it as a roomy location for a Clearwater history museum that will also tell the history of the Clearwater Bombers, a national champion fast-pitch softball team that played from 1940 to 2000. Under the lease agreement, the group will also reserve room to tell the history of the Pinellas County School District and provide community meeting space.

Maintaining such a large site while also creating and operating a museum will be a challenge for the society, which doesn't have a big bank account and will have to do fundraising. The lease has an early termination/buyout clause after 15 years should either side want to end the agreement.

During the same meeting last week, the School Board also approved the sale of the former North Ward Secondary School in St. Petersburg for $1.9 million. Built in 1914 and closed in 2008, the school sits on less than an acre of land at the intersection of Fourth Street N and 11th Avenue N, overlooking a commercial corridor and on the edge of the Old Northeast National Register Historic District. The buyer, Michael Kingsford of GLI Development LLC in New York City, lives in St. Petersburg and envisions a "food-centric, mini-destination" market there specializing in Florida-produced food and other products. He pledges he'll try to save the old two-story building.

Grego has the right idea. Finding productive uses for shuttered schools is the best way to protect them and continue their stories, while returning dollars to the district to help pay for the many needs of today's students.

Comments
Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18