In recent months, there has been much said about school capacity of Boca Raton schools. As far as I am concerned, too many liberties are being taken, and politics are being played with this important issue.
I have grandchildren in our schools, and every day I worry about their learning space and the other 173,000 children who attend district schools in the Palm Beach County School District—now the 10th largest school district in the United States.
Almost every one of the schools located within the city of Boca Raton are at, or exceed, their intended capacity. This is no secret and is exactly why I argued for and won a decision from the District to have the very first of the seven schools being rebuilt in the District located here in the city of Boca Raton. There has been significant misinformation distributed by a number of individuals, so I will take the opportunity to articulate the capacity issues and current solutions here.
Verde and Addison Mizner Elementary will be built on their current sites as larger K-8s instead of their current K-5s, to not only allow for more elementary school children to attend, but also allow for middle school-aged children to attend to relieve some of the overcrowding at Boca Raton Middle School. Those two schools are planned to be open for business in August 2020 and August 2021, respectively, providing our community is not impacted by any major hurricanes.
As you know, the City has also made available to the District vacant land next to Don Estridge High Tech Middle School, and I am pleased again that I was able to get the District to agree to build a brand new elementary school, also with a planned opening date of August 2020, on that land. This is the first new school that has been built in all of the Palm Beach County School District in the last 10 years.
The District is also planning to add six new modular classrooms to Calusa Elementary to help relieve the overcrowding at that school which follows a very public and controversial Calusa boundary change made last year, shifting children to other elementary schools outside of the Boca Raton city limits.
An 800-seat addition is in the works for Spanish River High School to help relieve the overcrowding at Boca Raton High School and three new modular classrooms are in the works for Omni Middle School.
As to Boca Raton High School which is very significantly over its “as built” capacity, there is no room on the property to add any classrooms or, for that matter, the additional parking that would be needed. The District is requiring all students who attend that school to re-register for the 2018-2019 school year with proof of residency in an attempt to identify “boundary jumper” students who attend the school, but live within the boundaries of other high schools.
The District has also stopped allowing any out-of-boundary students from attending the choice programs offered at Boca Raton High School. This will eventually reclaim hundreds of seats for Boca Raton students.
Overcrowding exists with a vengeance in the city’s schools. The Boca Raton schools are all top-rated and young families are buying the homes our older residents are selling, in order to send their children to our top-rated schools.
The schools have, as of late, been used as a political football in political gamesmanship between the “pro-development” people in the City and the “anti-development” people in the City and I, for one, believe it’s unfair to our children to use the schools as a political football. There should be no room for politics with respect to the safety and education of our children.
Frank Barbieri was born and raised in Akron, Ohio and moved to Boca Raton in 1984. He was elected to the Palm Beach County School Board in 2008 to represent District 5, the district that includes all of the schools in West Boca Raton and the city of Boca Raton, as well as other parts of Palm Beach County. He was elected and served as School Board Chairman in 2010, 2011 and was elected Vice Chairman in November 2013. Barbieri has been married to Rita Barbieri for over 40 years. They have three children and three grandchildren.