With the School Board having yet to commit to building schools in the Wedge area that is now part of Parkland, city officials have decided to take matters in their own hands.
At a recent strategic planning session, city officials asked staff to look into the feasibility of building a charter school in the city. They were unanimous in their opinion that the city needed a contingency plan to fall back on if the School Board decided not to build new schools in the city.
Triple H Ranch Property, one of the land owners in the Wedge, has set aside side-by-side sites for an elementary and middle school in the area. The School Board has agreed to take the sites, but faces a severe economic crisis and has not built a new school anywhere in the county for the last few years.
Commissioner Mark Weissman didn’t want growth in the Wedge to be detrimental to existing residents. “As developers sell homes, we need to have some kind of a contingency plan in place. We should maybe be thinking about giving some money to the School Board to start building schools in the Wedge.”
“The School Board is saying Parkland does not need a new school,” Mayor Michael Udine said. “”That is wrong. Their numbers are wrong. We need three more schools; I don’t care what the School Board says.”
“There should be enough seats to ensure that Parkland kids stay in Parkland,” Udine added. “Our schools should not be overcrowded. From the perspective of our residents, some of our schools are starting to be overcrowded.”
“The School Board is just not building new schools,” Commissioner John Willis, who was the chairman of the city’s education advisory board before he ran for office, said. “It will be a problem for us by 2017 to 2018. The city needs new schools. My preference is the School Board doing what it has to do, but I want us to be prepared.”
“The School Board is so broke at the moment,” Commissioner Jared Moskowitz said. “We can look into building a charter high school or bringing a private school into the city. It is really expensive to build a charter high school.”
If the School Board has no plans to build the proposed elementary and middle schools, the city will get the land for seven years. However, if the School Board says it intends to use the parcels, the land will remain its property. If the city gets the land but does not build a charter school within seven years, the land will go back to the developer.
In addition to Triple H Ranch Property setting aside land for the middle and elementary schools, the Hendrix family has promised to donate 40 acres for a high school. According to the city’s master plan for the area, there will be about 3,200 new homes once it is fully developed. The city’s population is expected to grow from about 23,000 to 40,000 once the Wedge area is built out.
Officials also approved the city spending $365,000 throughout the next five years to sustain or improve the standard of its schools. The proposed initiatives include creating a SAT tutoring program for high school students and creating 16 courses to better prepare students in the fields of reading, math and science.