Schools consider joining forces with YMCA

New partnership would build new facility, allow education opportunities

by Josh Whitener

The Union County Public Schools system is considering a partnership with the YMCA, which would allow the construction of a new facility and provide students and the community with new health and wellness educational opportunities.
A group representing the YMCA gave a presentation before the Union County Board of Education on Sept. 6 and addressed the projected costs, size and benefits.
Because of the recent growth of the YMCAs in Matthews and Ballantyne, the organization is looking to expand. One of the ways to draw people in from the Union County region is to build a new facility in the area. “Folks do not want to drive more than 15 minutes to the Y,” said Robbie Armstrong, executive vice president of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte.
The center, dubbed the “Hall Family YMCA,” would be located on a grassy peninsula next to Cuthbertson Middle and High schools. The 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot facility will cost approximately $5 million to $6 million in its first phase. By its third phase, the facility would grow as much as 50,000 square feet, take approximately seven to nine years to complete and cost up to $10 million.
The facility will include a multi-use gym, group exercise rooms, aquatics, locker rooms and child watch. In addition, the center would also potentially offer summer camps including the traditional day camp, sports camps, and special needs camps.
A handful of school systems throughout the country have already begun partnerships with a local YMCA. “It’s an exciting opportunity for collaborative effort, and it has not been duplicated in this area recently,” said Dr. Jim Watson, a UNC-Charlotte education professor who introduced the presentation.
Unlike some of the other partnerships, the schools and the YMCA center would not be joined. Instead, they would be on completely separate campuses, but in close enough proximity that the facility could be used for education programs.
The perks for UCPS entering into the partnership begin with sharing a full-time health education professional. The county would be responsible for funding 50 percent of the position’s annual costs. The educator would provide hands-on learning aimed at middle and high school students in a laboratory or classroom setting.
Other benefits would include a learn-to-swim program aimed at students and the community at large, affordable quality childcare for teachers with young children, membership discounts for UCPS employees, and the opportunity to pave the way for a future health-and-wellness magnet school.
Although the project is still in its most preliminary phases and the partnership has not yet been established, UCPS superintendent Dr. Ed Davis urged the board members to seriously consider this proposal. “I think this is something truly innovative that will benefit our community and our students,” he said. “I don’t want to see us be the punch line in another story on how we missed out on a golden opportunity.”

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