The school district’s boundary advisory committee will turn its attention this week to trimming the rolls at the most crowded public high school in the county: Forest Hill High.
The school tucked east of the interstate on the south side of Forest Hill Boulevard has 2,472 students crammed onto a campus build for 1,837. That puts the school at 140 percent of its capacity and makes it the most crowded high school in the district.
The school built in 1958 and largely replaced in 2004 has one of the smallest footprints for a high school. With limited classroom space and so many students, the school has 24 teachers with no room to call their own. Instead they float into rooms emptied when another teacher goes on break.
The first plan to relieve this crowding that the committee will review, chips away at the crowding by moving 182 students living north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to Palm Beach Lakes High, a school that is on average nearly 3 miles closer to their homes.
The neighborhoods involved are those in the far northern reaches of Forest Hill’s boundaries and were likely established years ago when Forest Hill boundaries were expanded to fill once-emptying seats.
The committee meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at district headquarters at 3300 Forest Hill Blvd. Public comment at the meeting is limited to 10 minutes at this meeting.
Once the committee picks a boundary option, it will then schedule a meeting with unlimited time for parents and community members to weigh in.
In recent years, administrators have shined up Forest Hill’s reputation by beefing up its academics and offerings, including the addition of an International Baccalaureate program among seven choice offerings. With the changes, the school’s popularity among parents has grown.
“There’s no new homes in the Forest Hill boundary, just new families repopulating there. Also, that school has become a popular school. We established seven choice programs there to attract students,” the district’s boundary expert Jason Link said recently.
Fewer families in the school’s zone are sending their children to magnets or private schools outside the boundaries, he said.
Palm Beach Lakes High, meanwhile, has about 2,400 students or about 87 percent of its capacity.
Both schools have enough students living in poverty to earn Title 1 designation. Forest Hill is a C school with about 88 percent minority students. Palm Beach Lakes is a more segregated school with 95 percent minority students. The school’s grade from the state fell last year from a C to a D.
The only other nearby school that could serve as a relief valve for Forest Hill is John I. Leonard High, but it too is filled beyond its capacity, and, with 3,645 students it is the largest school in the district.
Now that voters approved the penny sales tax, the district can move forward in building a relief high school in the region. But that school would be built at Lake Worth and Lyons roads and would require a series of boundary changes before it could alleviate crowding at Forest Hill High. And it would be years down the road – sometime between 2022 and 2027, according to the district’s capital budget.