Parkland officials have done enough to ensure that, at least for the next five years, students will be able to study in public schools within the city.
The City Commission recently approved an agreement with the School Board of Broward County for the installation and operation of eight modular classrooms. Four of them will be constructed by 2015 and the other four by 2016, all on elementary school campuses within the city.
The city will give the School Board $2 million to construct and install the eight units. The money will not come from the city’s coffers but from four developers – West Lennar, Lennar, Richmond American and Standard Pacific – which are currently building in the city, mainly in The Wedge area, the 1,900 acres of land that was recently incorporated into the city.
The School Board was expected to approve the agreement at its meeting last week, but the issue was tabled at the request of the city. “There was as slight hiccup in one of the properties,” Mayor Michael Udine said. “We asked the School Board to delay voting on it until the next meeting or the one after that.”
Modulars count toward permanent capacity, unlike portables. The city’s decision to fund the construction of the units comes in the wake of a recent proposal by School Board member Abby Freedman to take students from The Wedge area to schools in cities such as Deerfield Beach and Pompano Beach. That proposal was dropped after the community reacted angrily to it.
The city had to work hard to get the modulars, Udine said. “When this first went to School Board staff and they were drafting this, they wanted to say that these modulars would be somewhere in the north area. We said it is not happening like that. The modulars must be built within the city, and they must be operated.”
The agreement protects the city and provides for additional classroom space, Udine said. “The School Board should be building schools. Luckily, we were smart enough to have some of this money set aside, which could have been used for major enhancements but will be used for modular classrooms.”
As part of the agreement, the School Board will remove eight portable classrooms from within the north school impact fee service area. The city has not been able to extract a commitment that the portables removed would be from schools within the city.
“We are probably not going to get further in the agreement than this,” City Attorney Andy Maurodis said “We have pushed the limit.”
Vice Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, who recently met with School Board Superintendent Robert Runcie, said Runcie was supportive of the agreement. “Right now, Heron Heights is the only school that is over capacity. Our high school and middle schools are under-enrolled. The modulars will be a factor when the extra growth comes in.”
The modulars are a welcome addition, but the city’s larger goal remains: having a school built within its boundaries. Officials are not optimistic about that happening any time soon.
“If you take into account the financial situation of the School Board, our chances are slim to none,” Hunschofsky said of a new school. “The modulars will help us for the next few years.”
Like Hunschofsky, Udine is not banking on the School Board to build a new school in the city. “We are going to have to come up with some other idea in the future,” he said.