By: Jill Fox
The cows who once roamed the property located at the intersection of University Drive and Hillsboro Boulevard are no longer grazing, as the land is now being prepared for a new charter school.
“They have begun clearing the surface of the property, and are making preparations for the building construction,” said city spokesperson Todd DeAngelis.
The new K-8 charter school is not a city project, but the developer, Parkland School Property LLC., indicated the development of the land would continue for approximately two months. After that, the building will be constructed.
The plan is to have the project completed in time for the 2020 school year, with security as a top priority.
Somerset Parkland Academy has promised a myriad of safety measures, starting with a six-foot-high ornamental fence surrounding the school and an eight-foot-high non-scalable interior fence. In addition, there will be a security observation tower, license plate readers, a call box, and safety barriers around the entrance to protect carpool students from lanes of traffic.
The school als0 promised a rigorous and relevant STEM-based curriculum with an emphasis on building a strong science foundation as early as kindergarten.
The proposal for the school began in 2014. In 2016, Academica, the parent company of Somerset, bought the 10.5-acres of land for $5 million. In November 2017, Academica brought in real estate developer Frank Biden — brother of former Vice President Joe Biden, and local attorney Michael Moskowitz to drum up support for the school in a meeting with local parents.
Moskowitz said the school is allowed to have a limited exclusive enrollment period for 30-45 days prior to general enrollment, where they can limit students to a specified geographical area. They proposed, subject to the school board’s approval that the exclusive enrollment period is a 2.5-mile radius of the school, including west Boca Raton. Any student that resides within this area may enroll early. After that enrollment period ends, other students may enroll as well as siblings of current students.
Back in September of 2018, the charter school was approved by the Parkland city commission after much controversy. Parkland residents opposing the new school protested at a special commission meeting lasting 13 hours over two days, which included testimony by the city, applicant, and an attorney and traffic engineer hired by residents.
In August, they received $15 million in EB-5-backed construction financing to start building. This alternative type of funding encourages foreigners to invest in the United States and create American jobs in exchange for a U.S. green card.
At full capacity, Somerset Academy will have 1,280 students, so the chief complaint was the amount of traffic at the school because they do not provide transportation. Applicants from both Palm Beach and Broward Counties can apply, and opponents believed the excessive traffic was incompatible with the community.
DeAngelis said one likely outcome of the project would be the installation of a traffic signal at the intersection of University Drive and Hillsboro Boulevard. While this was expected to be installed eventually, it will now happen sooner rather than later.
We reached out to Somerset Academy Attorney Michael Moskowitz, who, prior to the city’s approval, was open for comment. Now Moskowitz has not returned our requests regarding the progress of the school. Somerset, once accessible to questions before the city’s approval, will not return calls as well.
- Jill Fox is an Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. She is currently a Senior Account Director at Lon Haber & Co., a leading full-service public relations firm. Fox worked at NBC Miami for eight years after graduating from the University of Miami. She lives in Parkland with her husband, Brian and two children.