Could 1 new high school and 3 elementaries be coming to PBC?

Before Seminole Ridge High school opened in 2005, the district’s planners were already trying to handle the influx of more students than it was intended to serve. It was the last high school built.

Now high schools closer to the coast, particularly Forest Hill and John I. Leonard, are bulging at the classroom doors, and administrators are pinning their hopes on the proposed penny sales tax to cover the costs of building a new high school.

Seminole Ridge High  students build a Habitat for Humanity home.  But when the school opened it quickly needed more space of its own. (Photo courtesy Seminole Ridge High)
Seminole Ridge High students build a Habitat for Humanity home. But when the school opened it quickly needed more space of its own. (Photo courtesy Seminole Ridge High)

The one high school as well as three new elementaries are among the projects spelled out in a $1.7 billion capital plan that would go into effect if voters approve the proposed tax on Nov. 8. The district would get half the tax proceeds, or $1.3 billion. To complete the plan, the district would seek $318 from other sources.

For now, staff proposes the three elementary schools be built where growth is anticipated: Near the Minto West community recently incorporated as Westlake, in Jupiter near Scripps Research Institute and in the suburbs of Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

The new schools would come late in the next decade – from 2022 to 2027, only after seven existing, but aging campuses are replaced and 13 others get additions or remodels.

Among those plans, the long-anticipated expansion of Plumosa Elementary of Arts to include grades 6, 7 and 8.

Also in the plans, long-delayed repairs to roofs and air conditioning systems. The district was expected unveiled an online school-by-school inventory of the repairs needed and their estimated costs by Wednesday evening.

The website was created in response to calls for transparency in the process.

 

 

Updated: What PBC students got from $651M of last school sales tax

Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa
Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa

 

In a case of perfect timing,  just as the Palm Beach County School Board considers collaborating with the county to pursue a one penny sales tax, the committee that oversaw spending on the district’s last, now-expired sales tax has released its report on how that one went.

Update: 

Only this month did the Palm Beach County School District close the books on the projects paid for by the half-cent sales tax that expired in 2010. The last project on those books was The Conservatory @ North Palm Beach school which opened a year ago, said David Porter, who served on the independent oversight committee that kept tabs on the projects.

The books closed, the committee, which last met three years ago, moved to reviewing the projects and the process and issued its final report March 4, Porter said. It was a report the committee intended to produce from the beginning, he said.

“We wanted to do that to show the public,” Porter said. That the report comes amid discussions of a new sales tax was both coincidental and fortunate, he said. “It wasn’t planned. We could’ve written it three years ago, but we wanted to wait until all the bills got paid.”

For a school-by-school list of projects refer to the 2005-2009 Five Year Capital Plan.

The board has agreed 5-2 to combine with the county to seek raising the sales tax, but gave the county commission until April 15 to commit to the joint effort.

Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa discussed the 7-page report titled “Promises Made/Promises Kept”at a media briefing before today’s (Wed. March 16) school board meeting.

That sales tax was a 1/2 cent sales tax approved by county voters in 2004 to remain in place for five years or until $560 million was raised.

In the end, the tax expired in 2010 after generating more than $651 million – the additional cash was because the sales tax had to run to the end of the calendar year.

The money was intended for the district’s construction program. Back then the district was rushing to keep up with a growing student body and demands of class size reduction.

According to the committee, 98 percent of the 161 projects were completed, and the four that weren’t got sidelined because by the time they rolled around students had moved and there weren’t enough to fill a new school.

The oversight committee (full name: Independent Sales Surtax Oversight Committee or ISSOC) was comprised of 13 “stakeholders”, most of them not employees of the district.

The committee met for seven years to review each construction project and its costs.

What did voters get for their money?

• 24 New and Replacement Schools • 23 Classroom Additions • 7 Pre-K Centers • 4 Auditoriums • 3 High School Stadiums • 47 Schools received Covered Walkways • 45 Schools received Computer Connectivity • 5 Career Academy Additions • 1 Swimming Pool