Boca boundary changes will go to community meetings

"C-1 hybrid' : The boundary proposal that will be taken out to community meetings.
“C-1 hybrid’ : The boundary proposal that will be taken out to community meetings.

The school board’s boundary advisory committee has picked one option to relieve crowding at Calusa Elementary that would shuffle 372 students at seven schools in the Boca Raton area. The next move is to take this option out to the residents in the community for their input.

“This is not it,” committee chairwoman Cinthia Becton reminded the group and the gathering of about 50 people at the boundary discussion Thursday night. “I don’t want anyone to think this is it by any means.”

In the past, boundary proposals have undergone more than a dozen revisions before the committee makes a final recommendation.

That recommendation must then go to the superintendent, who then makes a final proposal to the school board.

The community meeting date has not yet been set.

With more than 1,204 students on a campus built for 840, Calusa is the most crowded elementary school in the district. This is the third boundary committee meeting this fall to talk about solutions.

Perhaps the biggest concern is that the plan that is moving forward doesn’t draw down enough students.

Calusa’s principal has already cannibalized library and office space as well as a computer lab for classrooms. The fine arts teachers don’t have their own rooms.

“You still have the same size cafeteria, the same size media center,” said committee Nancy Gribble, who cast one of the two dissenting votes.

Other options staff presented in the last two months moved up to 500 students in a domino of moves that took more than 300 out of Calusa.

The plan moving forward would take enrollment at Calusa down to 1,032 in the first year (allowing fourth and fifth graders to stay).  That’s more than the school was built for, but exactly at capacity when you count 11 portables that are parked on campus to relieve crowding.

Residents and committee members hold out hope that nearby schools can get added capacity now that voters this week approved a one-cent sales tax for construction. Under the current plan, however, nearby Addison Mizner and Verde elementary schools wouldn’t be replaced immediately and it is up to the School Board to agree to add capacity in the remodels.

The sales tax plan also includes building a new school in the region, but is not in the budget until 2022-2027. Moving that project up would be challenging because of the way the district caps its debt in any given year, Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke has said.

Meanwhile, parents have also clamored for changes to nearby Morikami Elementary’s boundaries. That school, a magnet for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program, is filled entirely by lottery with priority going to those living in its immediate vicinity.

Parents have also demanded a close check of the rolls to seek any so-called boundary jumpers at Calusa – about 11 questionable addresses were picked up by a recent investigation in one boundary zone, district officials reported. The verification process continues for the rest of the school’s attendance area. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported 13 questionable addresses had been found.)







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