Pierian Spring Academy Announces Final Season
Entering its 19th season this October, Pierian Spring Academy (PSA) comes off another year of record-breaking enrollment and participation with an expanded slate of 69 courses—most of them new—offered at six locations around Sarasota. But this will also be the adult education nonprofit’s last year operating as an independent organization after a decision to consolidate into the Ringling College Lifelong Learning Academy (RCLLA).
Formed earlier this year by the merging of Lifelong Learning Academy of Sarasota and the college’s Continuing Studies and Special Programs department, the RCLLA will be housed within the newly renovated and equipped Sarasota Museum of Art (SMOA) just south of Downtown Sarasota, which played a major role in PSA’s decision to merge, according to PSA Board Member and Marketing Chair John Gartner: “When we saw that Ringling was reaching out and promoting its new facility, we said, ‘Maybe this is the time to throw our hat in with them. This looks like an opportunity for us.'”
The opportunity brought two prime advantages, says Gartner. From an educational standpoint, gone would be the hassle of dealing with failing or faulty equipment in rented facilities or classrooms, to be replaced by SMOA’s “absolutely first class” audio/visual classroom technology. No more waiting on technicians or assistants while students waited on their learning. “We expect that type of situation to be completely eliminated,” says Gartner.
And from an administrative standpoint, this first permanent home for PSA means an end to the yearly struggle to find suitable and affordable locations to rent throughout the season for classes, freeing up time and money for the nonprofit’s educational mission. “It’s a very big effort every year,” says Gartner, “and it’s a job you don’t want to have to do when your emphasis is on providing lifelong learning opportunities and adult education.” Gartner hopes the centralized and consistent location will also help develop more of a community presence, though admits the possibility of losing students who found the scattered campus more convenient.
Classes will continue through the 2016–17 year with “business as usual,” according to a statement released by PSA but it remains unknown what effect the consolidation will have in years to come on programming. “I can’t answer that question because we don’t know,” says Gartner. “It’s an open question.”