By: Diane Emeott Korzen Contributing Writer
By the end of 2017, the Palm Beach County School Board hopes to have a better idea where it is going to rebuild the top-rated Addison Mizner Elementary School.
Either at its current 11-acre site at 199 SW 12 Ave. in Boca Square, or approximately one mile away if it is moved to a 26-acre site in the southeast corner of the 132-total acre Sugar Sand Park, (around the corner and down the street on Camino Real from the original school location.)
In any case, the rebuilt school is slated to become K-8 (kindergarten through 8th grade), rather than the current K-5 (kindergarten through 5th grade), as is the wave of the future for both Addison Mizner and Verde Elementary. These schools are among seven Palm Beach County schools slated for modernization using penny sales tax dollars.
Parents could choose to keep their kids at the new Addison Mizner Elementary for all eight grades, or participate only in the K-5 program there and send them to Boca Middle for grades 6 to 8, said District 5 School Board Member Frank Barbieri at an “Open Forum to discuss Addison Mizner School Rebuilding” on Oct. 5.
Children would be separated from the older kids either by different start times or by housing older kids on the top floor of what Barbieri described as probably a three-story building, with the younger kids below.
Both Addison Mizner and Verde Elementary are planning to add 300 new students through the K-8 plan; bringing their total respective student loads up from 900 to 1,200.
A couple hundred parents and residents randomly rang in on the options presented to them for the rebuild of Addison Mizner Elementary at the meeting. Held in the 464-person-capacity Boca Raton Middle School cafeteria, the open forum was the first of its kind regarding the beloved Boca Square elementary school, built in1967.
School Board Member Barbieri and Boca Raton City Councilman Scott Singer each made presentations before taking questions from the audience.
Also in attendance were Mayor Susan Haynie, Greater Boca Raton Beach & Park District Commissioner Craig Ehrnst, Addison Mizner Elementary School Principal Kelly Burke and PTA President Mike Maynes.
Barbieri stressed that he was sent there to say, “We have not made a change. I’m here to gather your concerns and bring them back to the Superintendent [Dr. Robert Avossa, Ed.D.] “There’s been no plan to move Addison Mizner school. Unless you support it, we are not doing it!” he said emphatically.
Barbieri told parents they weren’t going to vote on it; he was just trying to get consensus.
Rather than a clear consensus at this first meeting, however, there seemed to be mixed reaction when sampling parents, many of whom support the move to the larger Sugar Sand space, with neighborhood residents.
Parents & residents speak
Among the concerns raised by parents, residents of Boca Square, and Boca Sailing & Racquet Club (at 1900 W. Camino Real) were: safety and traffic concerns, recreational and classroom space concerns, price concerns for the rebuild, scientific sampling of feedback, environmental impact, and what is in the best interest of the children.
“I don’t know if you’ve been out on our fields,” Addison Mizner Phys-Ed Teacher Miss Susie Cox said. “They’re terrible. We don’t have space. Parents fought for an extra 15 to 20 minutes of recess. Give us room to do that!”
Attorney – “I have six nieces and nephews in the Boca public schools. This meeting only has selective community involvement. What about when one child is killed by those railroad tracks [if the school is relocated to Sugar Sand Park]. To put a school that close to railroad tracks is criminal. You might as well put a pool there with no fence around it!”
“We are concerned, and against the development of Sugar Sand Park,” a Boca Sailing & Racquet Club resident said. “Camino Real is [already] very busy. We are concerned for children’s safety. Also, how do we get out of our driveway? If you do move forward [with the Sugar Sand option], move the entrance to the school off of Camino.”
PTA President – “I think I’d like the conversation steered toward what is best for the kids! Due to the playing fields, I think there is a lot of merit to the Sugar Sand Park idea.”
Potential land swap
Councilman Singer said any future land swap was really up to the Beach & Park District (which owns Sugar Sand Park) and the School Board (which owns Addison Mizner) — as they own the land.
If Addison Mizner were to be moved, Barbieri said the current school property could possibly become a park, or sold for another use.
If Sugar Sand Park is chosen as the new site, there is an idea to see whether it is possible to move the conservation easement in the southeast corner [where the school would go] to the undeveloped northwest corner. The tortoise have moved on that were originally there and the vegetation there is not desirable, it was explained at the meeting. Added Assistant Director of the Beach & Park District Briann Harms later, “In the last 10 years, I haven’t seen a gopher tortoise there, which were once quite prevalent.”
Singer said the city’s environmental staff and others would be exploring this.
If, Addison Mizner is instead rebuilt at its current site, there is talk of temporarily sending students to Verde Elementary, or dividing them up among other schools during construction.
Verde is rebuilding its school, to be ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 2020/21 school year. Upon completion of the new Verde Elementary, Addison Mizner could begin transferring kids to the old Verde Elementary school building. The new Addison Mizner Elementary, if it remains at its current site, would be ready for occupancy at the beginning of the 2022/23 school year.