BOCC race: Following the money
DAP breaks ground today, begins half-year's construction

Lakewood keeps Y, gets middle school in the bargain

We've been remiss in not acknowledging the good news that broke out of the Lakewood area late on Monday. As you've probably heard (and can read about in the H-S, N&O, or at Barry's place), the YMCA of the Triangle has struck an agreement with Durham County and the Durham Public Schools that preserves the future of the longtime neighborhood institution.

The County approved the deal unanimously on Monday night; it moves to the school board in late May for that body's nod.

In a nutshell, the county will spend $250,000 for the 60,000 sq. ft. facility -- a fraction of what the H-S reports is a $2.6-$4.5 million appraised value -- then spend $8 million to repair the old and battered facility. One-third of the space will be leased back to the Y for $1 per year; the Y will pay to make some final upfit renovations to their part facility, but the 15-year lease deal still is worth almost $2 million to the non-profit.

The remainder of the old Y will be turned over by the county to DPS, which will operate a Montessori middle school in the space in less than four years' time.

It's rare that you can call a deal a win-win (or, here, a win-win-win) and mean it as more than a cliche. But this is that really unusual case where the term applies.

DPS gets a deep, deep discount on the cost of opening a new middle school -- as Matthew Milliken notes at Paxton's Durham daily, a new middle school for North Durham is estimated to cost $32 million, not including the cost of land already owned by the county. So, for less than a quarter the cost of a new school, DPS gets room to accomodate more students.

And a magnet school is a great fit for a socioeconomically diverse area like Lakewood; Duke student Kristen Manderscheid's analysis earlier this year also found some disadvantaged populations seemed to really benefit from magnet programs, while the school is also likely to draw students from more privileged backgrounds (and their parents' PTA time and money contributions to boot.) I believe the new school will be the first Montessori magnet middle school in Durham, which already has several such elementary programs.

For the YMCA, the deal is a new life for the facility; the YMCA of the Triangle had expressed concerns during the discussions with the local community that it would take a massive capital campaign to restore the facility to a fit condition. The Y gives up the building but gets back a renovated space without having to fund much of the cost. And besides maintaining an adult fitness center, the facility will allow the Y to continue its popular summer camp and after-school programs -- the latter of which just found a great new target market in co-located middle school students.

And of course, the community keeps its facility active, with a brand new purpose of education that can serve as an anchor in the community. The Committee to Save the Lakewood Y, winners of the Indy Weekly's Citizen Award in 2007 for their efforts, deserves credit for reminding the entire community of what advocacy, passion and determination can do.

Kudos to all involved for a perfect ending to what looked for a long time to be a perpetually imperfect situation.


seth vidal

How does that work? How can the public school system be involved with saving the YMCA as the YMCA? Isn't there an issue with it being religiously affiliated? Or did the ymca renounce it's religious affiliation?


Well, if the county is buying up the whole space and then turning parts of it over to YMCA and to DPS, then it doesn't sound like DPS is giving any money to the Y, which I think would be the point of conflict of interest.

The Y has not, last I heard, renounced its religious affiliation.


This is a great plan...the total per student cost is lower than a newly constructed building. I think we need more schools in the core along with the new suburban schools.

I hope they have a preferential attendance zone to include all of the six neighborhoods in SWCD.

There is another site on Carroll/Lakewood (surplus National Guard building) that could make an interesting re-use project...

Congrats to the County, YMCA and (most of all) neighbors on coming to an even better consensus.


I'm always very cautious of tax dollars being used to bail out non-profits with religious status. However, the YMCA does serve multiple roles in our community and does fill a void in the Lakewood community. Before I would deem the cost a "savings" to DPS I would like to see numbers on how many students are going to be served by the middle school. Most of the middle school over crowding is very far from the core of the city, thus I'm not convinced this is the best way for DPS to spend it's money. Someone else posted that they hope that a preferential attendance zone is set. Typically with Montessori Education they do not like to accept children who have not had formal Montessori exposure. Usually the cut off is about 2nd grade. I would imagine the students at Morehead & Watts Montessori would have first preferance, which probably will easily fill up the school. This is how other Magnets like Rogers Herr and the new Persons Middle School works. It's good that the district is looking at middle school options that will encourage middle class families to not opt out middle school in Durham, thus exasberating the problems. But again I'd like to see a per pupil cost.


I'm pleased to see an existing building reused rather than being torn down and a brand-new building erected to replace it. There is so much material waste in tear-down-and-rebuild projects. Kudos for this reduce, reuse, recycle plan for the Lakewood Y building! Any chance they will use recycled building materials and alternative energy in the new school/Y renovation?? That may be too much to expect, but we can hope...

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