Published On: Thu, Jan 21st, 2021

Boca Raton City Council OKs transfer of land for new school

By: Dale King

Boca Raton is one step closer to getting a new kindergarten-grade 5 school – expandable to K-8 – on property adjacent to the Don Estridge High Tech Middle School off Military Trail and Spanish River Boulevard across from Lynn University.

The three proposed city-owned parcels near Don Estridge Middle School

The City Council Tuesday night held a public hearing, then voted to transfer about 15 acres of city-owned land to the Palm Beach County School Board for construction of a new educational center within the city limits.

Council members applauded the new school for helping to alleviate crowding at other buildings.

Mayor Scott Singer, who worked with School Board Chairman Frank Barbieri to secure the site and funding for the school, applauded the “three years-plus project. This is the culmination of a lot of behind-the-scenes work.”

He also thanked the staff, and told a bit about the “15 or 16 configurations” that were considered before the current site proposal was presented.

Deputy City Manager Mike Woika said the school, slated for completion in 2022, will be located east of Military Trail, south of Spanish River Boulevard and southeast of Don Estridge School.

Currently referred to only as School O5-C, the education facility will be built on land being donated by the city of Boca Raton, a donation first orchestrated by then-Councilman and now Mayor, Singer, and School Board Chair, Frank Barbieri, in January 2019.

The board had money available for a school project if one was ready to go. Singer and Barbieri jumped at the opportunity to bring it to Boca.

The site will house the first new school to be built in the city in many years. It will provide up to 1,000 new student seats to relieve overcrowding at all the city’s elementary schools. There is also talk of turning some schools, possibly O5-C, into a kindergarten-grade 8 center.

In fact, Woika said the School Board asked to remove “elementary” from the descriptive paperwork and insert “K-5, expandable to K-8.”

The Planning and Zoning Board voted unanimously Nov. 5 to approve the land transfer and recommend the City Council follow suit. 

During this week’s meeting, Woika said the process regulating the sale of city property was being used to transfer the property. “This falls under the sale of city property regulation. It is not a true sale, but we are following this procedure.”

Woika said the school known as O5-C “opened to the students from Verde Elementary as their home school was rebuilt during the 2019-20 school year. Verde students [were] to return to their new campus in the fall of 2020 and Addison Mizner students will attend the temporary O5-C while their campus is rebuilt in 2020-2021.”

Once this is done, the portable classrooms on the site will be removed, and School O5-C will rise.

“The city is working closely with the Palm Beach County School District to make coordinated and complementary improvements,” officials said about the school construction work.

City Manager Leif Ahnell also noted: “As this city property is being transferred to the School Board through a donation, there are no revenues or expenses associated with the transfer.”

Singer noted that if the land is not used for education purposes, it will revert to city ownership.

The School District of Palm Beach County is scheduled to release a timeline for construction of the new school.

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