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Speer YMCA and joint middle school open

Ashley Morales

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YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Schools cut the ribbon on a new campus Dec. 13.

The area’s first joint YMCA and magnet middle school campus is officially open.

YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg and Pinellas County Schools cut the ribbon on its new campus Dec. 13. The 19-acre site at 501 62nd Ave. NE is home to Speer YMCA and Mangrove Bay Middle School. YMCA and Pinellas Schools leaders touted the partnership as an innovative approach to advancing student success and community health.

“This project is like no other in Tampa Bay, a first of its kind,” said David Jezek, President and CEO of YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg. “We talk about a lot about organizations going on trips elsewhere to find unique projects. I can guarantee people are going to come from all across the country to see what we created here, and we will be proud to share.”

The 111,757-square-foot complex has shared areas and amenities that will used by YMCA members and 500 middle school students, including a media center, dining hall, sports track and a gym. The YMCA will offer members a full fitness center with cardio and strength equipment, and an outdoor water area with a splash pad and 25-yard lap pool. Mangrove Bay Middle School is home to more than a dozen classrooms and will offer electives aligned with the YMCA’s areas of impact: Youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.  

“This partnership with the YMCA makes perfect sense for the school district,” said Pinellas County Schools Superintendent Kevin Hendrick. “The Y stands for everything about improving the lives of children and families. Mangrove Bay Middle School will offer students a health and wellness magnet [school] with the same themes as the YMCA.”

St. Petersburg-based Wannemacher Jensen Architects and Harvard Jolly broke ground on the project in June 2022 at the site of the old Riviera Middle School, which had been dormant for nearly 15 years. The two entities shared the cost of the joint campus, with Pinellas County Schools paying $26.3 million and the YMCA paying $21.6 million. The Speer Foundation donated $8 million to the YMCA of Greater St. Petersburg for the project, earning naming rights to the new building.

“Let’s face it: When you look across the country and you witness what is going on in public schools and communities sharing space, this doesn’t seem to come naturally to a public school district,” said Cabot Pyle, Executive Director of the Speer Foundation. “And yet, in Pinellas County Schools, the school board has leaned into this venture in a collaborative, encouraging way, sharing not only the joy of this moment but also the risks associated with making it happen.”

The middle school plans to open in time to welcome 6th through 8th grade students for the 2024/25 academic year. Principal Brett Patterson will lead the school. Hendrick said as a magnet school, Mangrove Bay will have an application process, with students selected to attend based on proximity. He added that distance can vary each year based on the number of children and families who apply.

The Speer YMCA Executive Director, Jenny Beadle, started in August. Speer YMCA will have a soft opening Dec. 18 through Jan. 1 with limited hours and no group exercise classes. However, members will be able to use the new workout equipment and the locker rooms. The YMCA will fully open with classes, programming and regular hours Jan. 2, 2024. A YMCA spokesperson says the pool opening is delayed, but they hope to open it by the end of January.

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    John Donovan

    December 13, 2023at5:03 pm

    Something to be proud of for sure !

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