Thursday, March 16, 2023

New Boca Elementary School Gets a Name, but Still No Consensus on Boundaries

Boca Raton’s new elementary school has a name. It still doesn’t have boundaries, and that fight might go all the way to the Palm Beach County School Board.

At 5 p.m. today, the school district’s Advisory Boundary Committee will hold a “community input session” on the proposed map to determine which children attend Blue Lake Elementary—on Military Trail just south of Spanish River Boulevard—and which attend other schools. The main purpose of Blue Lake, which opens in August, is to relieve severe crowding at Calusa Elementary roughly two miles north.

After public comment during its first two meetings on Blue Lake, the committee changed its recommended map for the new school. It is more compact than the staff’s first proposal and stretches slightly farther to the northeast. Parents opposed to Study 1 complained that it kept too many wealthier, single-family homes at the very popular Calusa.

Though most movement for students would be from Calusa to Blue Lake, the final boundary will affect more students and more schools. In setting boundaries, the district groups children by neighborhood in Study Area Codes, or SACs.

Under Study 3, some students would move from J.C. Mitchell Elementary to Blue Lake. Some would move to Blue Lake from Verde, which next year will be a full K-8 school. Some will move from Verde to Addison Mizner, which is adding seventh grade next year and eighth grade in 2023-24.

And one group of about 100 students from communities near Boca Raton Regional Hospital would shift from Addison Mizner to J.C. Mitchell Elementary. Some of those parents complained strongly, because their children would leave a new, expanded school for an older one. They also claimed that J.C. Mitchell has a ‘C’ rating from the state, but the most recent rankings—from before the pandemic—give it an ‘A.’ The state suspended grades for 2020-21.

At today’s meeting, committee members also likely will hear from residents of The Preserve and Les Jardins south of Yamato Road. Study 1 kept their children at Calusa. Study 3 would shift them to Blue Lake.

New schools are rare in Palm Beach County. Boca Raton got Blue Lake because the city donated 15 acres for it. Superintendent Mike Burke even asked planners to keep all city students at city schools, even though it’s a countywide system. School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri, who represents Boca Raton, asked Burke for that direction, which long has been a goal of the city council.

This fall, the city’s network of public schools will be even better. Getting there, though, means making decisions that affect individual families, some of whom won’t be happy.

After today, the committee’s recommendation will go to Burke. He will make his recommendation to the school board for approval. I would expect a final decision by March.

Automated parking comes to Boca    

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels

Automated parking is now legal in downtown Boca Raton.

The city council approved the ordinance during Tuesday night’s meeting after a brief discussion. A much longer discussion took place on Monday when the council was meeting as the community redevelopment agency.

As I had written, this item—which Councilwoman Monica Mayotte sponsored—had been scheduled for approval last month. But staff members raised objections, so the council delayed it for two weeks.

One issue is what would happen during power failures. Under the ordinance, owners of mechanical systems would have to provide an on-site generator. An attendant would have to be on duty unless the owner showed that the system could operate safely without one. Requirements would be higher for systems with at least 41 spaces. Operators could not allow cars to back up onto public streets.

Council members made clear Tuesday that they were not approving a specific project. Clearly, though, this idea is coming from the developer of Aletto, the proposed mixed-use project near Sanborn Square.

Aletto proposes a 357-space automated garage. The amendment language came from Derek Vander Ploeg, the architect for the project. Vander Ploeg negotiated with staff members on changes after the controversy last month.

Automated systems allow more cars in the same amount of space as traditional garages. Added parking capacity could allow Aletto to be larger than it could be otherwise.

The vote to approve the ordinance was 4-1. Andrea O’Rourke dissented. She noted that the proposal “got off to a bad start,” adding, “I never understood the urgency to move this” so quickly.

Bounce backs off      

Downtown Delray at night. (Photo courtesy Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority)

Bounce Sporting Club withdrew its application from last week’s Delray Beach City Commission meeting. It became clear that the commission would not support Bounce’s request to operate until 2 a.m.

The club would be in Atlantic Crossing, which is just outside the downtown entertainment district. As such, Bounce could stay open only until midnight. Nearby neighborhoods told commissioners that they oppose the later closing.

Neil Schiller is Bounce’s attorney. He explained this week that the club, which would be an upscale sports bar filled with large-screen TVs, wants to show events from the West coast that finish well past midnight local time. Schiller said the owners met with about 90 residents last week to propose ideas that would minimize noise.

Among other things, Schiller said, the patio where people would gather while waiting to enter now is closer to Atlantic Avenue, not homes. With an expanded foyer inside, the club could handle as many as 60 people who were waiting.

“We heard from neighbors,” Schiller said, “they were worried more about people being noisy when they left, not so much noise from inside.” Bounce already had proposed closing windows after midnight.

The owners, Schiller said, want to stress that the Delray Beach club would not operate like its counterparts in New York and Chicago. They are more like nightclubs. The design for Delray Beach allows “very little space to dance.”

I asked Schiller if Bounce would not open if the city refused to allow the later closing. “It’s too early to say,” he responded. “We’re trying to figure out a compromise.”

Delray’s Gelin gets a raise

Delray Beach City Attorney Lynn Gelin got rave reviews last week from her bosses.

City commissioners gave Gelin a cumulative rating of 4.93 on a scale from 1 to 5. That would have qualified her for a five percent raise. Shirley Johnson, however, recommended a boost of 5.5 percent, which the commission approved.

Mayor Shelly Petrolia called Gelin’s dedication “second to none.” Petrolia forced out the former city attorney, Max Lohman, in November 2018. Gelin succeeded him.

City Manager Terrence Moore isn’t due for a formal evaluation until August, which will mark his first year in office. The agenda called for discussion of an informal evaluation form for Moore, but there was confusion. Not all commissioners submitted comment.

Still, Moore said he “welcomed the initial constructive feedback.” Johnson said Moore “has brought stability.”

Jerich hearing    

A hearing is scheduled for today in the case of Alexander Michael Jerich. The Lake Worth resident faces one felony charge and one misdemeanor charge for defacing Delray Beach’s LGBTQ Pride intersection last year while participating in a vehicle parade for Donald Trump.

Jerich was in court more recently for another traffic violation. He was accused of driving 87 miles per hour in a 40-mile-per-hour zone on Hypoluxo Road west of Interstate 95. According to court records, Jerich paid $306 in fines and costs and was ordered to attend eight hours of instruction against driving aggressively, He must complete that instruction by March 17.

Delray Beach Open kicks off      

The Delray Beach Open, the city’s annual professional tennis tournament, begins Friday and runs through Feb. 20. The community redevelopment agency is contributing $905,000 toward the event.

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Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz
Randy Schultz, a native of Hartford, Connecticut, has been a South Florida journalist since 1974. He worked for The Miami Herald until 1976 and for The Palm Beach Post from 1976 until 2014, where he served as managing editor and editorial page editor. Since 2014, he has written a politics blog, commentaries and other articles for Boca magazine. His writing has earned first-place awards from the Florida Magazine Association and the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. Randy has lived in Boca Raton with his wife, Shelley Huff-Schultz, since 1985. His son, daughter-in-law and their three children also live in Boca Raton.

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