New charter school could save Sarasota YMCAs from closing next month

New charter school could save Sarasota YMCAs from closing next month
Charter school could save Sarasota YMCA's ahead of next month's scheduled closing.

SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Despite all this rain we’ve been experiencing here on the Suncoast, things are looking a lot brighter for the Frank G. Berlin YMCA and the one at Potter Park. A startup charter school could be coming to the rescue.

Geri and Tom Chaffee could be the reason why both Sarasota YMCAs survive next month’s scheduled closure. They are the founders of Dreamers Academy, a new dual-language charter school. They are interested in purchasing property behind the Y’s South Euclid Avenue facility and placing their charter school on the land, which would save both Ys.

“We’re serving the same community, our missions are completely aligned, why wouldn’t we try to work together, said Tom Chaffee. "We presented an offer to the YMCA board to buy the approximately six-acres behind the Berlin campus allowing them to keep the fitness center open.”

It was announced last month that both Sarasota YMCAs would be shutting down on September 13th because of dwindling memberships and financial problems. The Chafees did meet with Y management and the board Thursday to discuss their plans. Their school, which is scheduled to open in 2020, has qualified for millions of dollars in tax exempt bonds and a state grant.

“It is sufficient capital to pay down the YMCA’s existing debt and put substantial capital on their balance sheet in order to allow them to proceed forward,” said Chaffee.

In addition, the Save Our Y group is doing their part. They’ve already raised more than a quarter of a million dollars worth of pledges in under two days.

“We really want this thing and we want this community to have a Y," said Charlie Campbell, a member with the Save Our Y Committee. "I just can’t imagine Sarasota without a Y.”

The Sarasota YMCA’s board is expected to have a final decision on all this as early as this Tuesday. For more information on the Save Our Y campaign you can log onto saveoury.org.

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