MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s YMCA campus may become the site of the newly conceived public charter high school.
In an announcement on Saturday evening at Marco Island Academy’s kickoff fundraiser, Jane Watt, president of the Academy’s board and its 501(c)3 fundraising arm – the Marco Island Discovery Center, revealed the two entities had formed a partnership through a Memorandum of Understanding.
“The school will share land with the YMCA,” Watt said, “to provide a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly educational and recreational facility that will remain for future generations.”
At the event, board members of the Y and Academy praised the partnership as a good fit for both organizations.
“The Y has been actively seeking ways to provide for sustainability and longevity,” said Ashley Lupo, chairwoman of the Marco Y’s Strategic Planning Committee.
Cindy Love, CEO of the Marco Y, said a phone call from Watt ignited interest between the two groups. Watt originally called the Y looking for a temporary site to start Academy classes in 2011.
“When I met Cindy for the first time and we had lunch together, I knew this (partnership) could be something very special,” Watt said.
The Marco Island Family YMCA is located on the corner of San Marco and Sandhill Roads. The property is approximately 8.5 acres and currently contains tennis courts, pool, air-nasium, skate park, and a main building housing fitness and daycare facilities.
“Jane’s call came at a fortuitous time because we were actively considering a facilities collaboration; and on the surface, our missions appeared similar,” said Lupo.
In November 2009, Marco Island Academy approached the City and offered to build the high school and shared facilities in Mackle Park in exchange for land there.
At that time, the Marco Island Civic Association said it was not informed of the plan. Its deed restrictions designate Mackle Park land for recreational use only. This time, the partners made sure MICA was in the loop.
“We discussed the issue with MICA and they have been fully supportive and have confirmed that our land will support an educational facility,” said Love.
Jim O’Donnell, Y tennis player and attendee at the fundraiser, was pleased with the partnership.
“I was stunned at the announcement, but it’s a great location. I’ve been told by people who know that it will be a benefit for both (partners),” he said.
Realtor Jim Prange whose children attended Lely High School also came to the function.
“Lely is an incredible school. My two kids had good experiences there, but it will help from a real estate point of view to have our own community high school on the island,” he said.
Watt’s interest in an on-island high school started about a year ago when she attended a meeting to discuss a possible charter high school.
“We moved here from Ohio where we had all 12 grades in our community,” she said. “We wanted the same community appeal for our children.”
Bruce Davis, an Academy volunteer, agreed with Watt’s sentiment.
“Everybody has heart strings in certain places,” Davis said. “The people of Marco Island should be afforded this opportunity.”
In an e-mail blast to its members on Saturday, the Y’s Strategic Planning Committee explained what would be gained from the Memorandum of Understanding.
“The plan seeks to provide the Y with the expanded facilities needed to enhance its programs with a focus on health and fitness, adult education and expanded child care. Shared space for programs also will be available including a cafeteria/kitchen, multi-purpose room, music room and auditorium/gymnasium,” it read.
Watt explained that by combining resources, the project will have a greater chance of attracting local, state and federal funding. She noted the location will provide greater efficiencies in land, construction and development costs.
Plans to fund shared facilities could be a boon for the Y since it has been struggling to raise enough money to build an addition on its own.
The school is currently working on its grades 9-12 curriculum offering traditional core programs with college preparatory classes, an enhanced marine-sciences program, competitive sports and English as a second language courses.
As with all charter schools in Florida, enrollment is open to students throughout the county and is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.
“The school has already partnered with Florida Gulf Coast University to offer adult education and lifelong learning opportunities through it Renaissance Academy,” Watt said.
Sierra Rose, an 8th grader who now attends the Marco Island Charter Middle School, joined the event’s program by singing “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong.
“I think it would be a unique learning opportunity, convenient and close to home,” she said of the Academy.
The Marco Island Academy is hoping to open its doors in August 2011.