A charter school company with over 100 schools in six states has expressed interest in opening a school in Parkland.
Academica, which has a reputation for high end, upscale schools, wants to buy ten acres of land and build a K-8 school in the wedge, the area that was annexed into the city from Palm Beach County. The proposed facility would also have the ability to add up to 12th grade. The application will be considered by the city’s Education Advisory Board as well as its Planning and Zoning Board before coming up before the City Commission for final approval.
Mayor Michael Udine, who spoke about the proposal at the city’s back to school breakfast, later gave more details on Facebook. “This school would accommodate approximately 1500 students. I am informally being told, the school, would be very high end. “Parkland Academy” has been thrown around as a name.”
“There would be a lot of city involvement,” Udine said. “We are being told the way the rules work is that the school would be open to Parkland residents, first, and then after a certain time period open to others residents.”
“I would prefer the School Board building schools in the land that we have set aside in the wedge, but they say they have no money to build new schools,” Udine said. “This will give our parents another option.”
With charter schools mushrooming all over the county and some of them closing due to poor performance, many cities have been extra-cautious in letting new schools open. Tamarac, for one, is in the process of rewriting its code to reduce zoning districts where such schools can be located. The city will also impose minimum lot size requirements for such schools.
“This will be a high end school with its own campus,” Udine said. “What they are proposing is not a lower-end, storefront charter school. It is still very early in the process; this will require City Commission approval.”
Parkland officials have been worried about overcrowding in its schools and with the city’s population expected to grow from about 23,000 to 40,000 once the wedge built out, have been looking at ways to ensure that all students go to neighborhood schools. Udine was among those who led the public outcry against School Board member Abby Freedman’s proposal to bus students from overcrowded schools in the city to schools in other cities.
“When it comes to children’s education, it is only appropriate to make comments based on documented facts,” Freedman said, when contacted. “I cannot comment based on blogs or Facebook posts. The mayor has not contacted me nor has an application been submitted to the School Board.”
“Increasing capacity in our public schools is the best option,” Bob Mayersohn, who is running against Freedman for the School Board District 4 seat, said. “The School Board has taken over land set aside for schools but they don’t have money to build. I don’t have anything against a well-run charter school; a municipal charter school may be the best option.”
“People want their kids to go to a neighborhood school,” said Mayersohn. “If what they are proposing is a quality school, it will work. The good thing is that there are people out there trying to create solutions.”
With the chances of the School Board building new schools looking bleak, the city commission had, at one point of time, asked staff to look into the feasibility of building a municipal charter school in the city. The idea has since been shelved.