Aidyn Lee and Piper Bond take a break from the sun and sand to check out the hot dogs and snacks at last Wednesday’s Academy by the Sea fundraiser. The Sirata resort donated a room for the fundraiser as well as an hour of free time on the slide.
Although the historic Gulf Beaches Elementary remains closed over the protests of St. Pete Beach commissioners, graduates, and parents, a group of beach residents remains determined that their children will get an education on the beach.
Wednesday afternoon, the board for Academy by the Sea, a school that could open next fall on St. Pete Beach, held a fundraiser at the Sirata Beach resort. Organizers say they hoped to raise awareness and garner support for the school.
“We’re asking [attendees] to make a pledge. If approved, they agree to buy a certain item,” Wendy Savage, a parent and one of 10 board members trying to make Academy by the Sea a reality. “This is a party to raise awareness and let them know what our needs are.”
The all-volunteer board will submit an application to the Pinellas County School Board in August, and the school board will grant or deny the charter this fall. If the school board approves the charter, the free public school will open on the beach as early as the fall of 2014. It will espouse a Montessori teaching philosophy, which builds on – among others – the premise that children learn through discovery and doing rather than lectures.
Academy by the Sea will “be open to any student of any background” for free, Ms. Savage says, adding that enrollment will use the lottery method common in Pinellas charter schools.
At the June 11 city commission meeting, St. Pete Beach commissioners will discuss the possibility of renting the former St. Pete Beach Police Department (which went out of use when the city contracted with the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office on January 1 of this year) as a school building. The commission will not vote on this issue on June 11 but, Ms. Savage asks, the Academy could use the support of the community at this meeting.
Although the former Gulf Beaches Elementary School building on Blind Pass remains unused, a locked fence surrounding the sprawling campus, Ms. Savage says the school board would not lease the school the building.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.