By: Sharon Aron Baron
Plans for a new charter school in Parkland didn’t occur overnight. In fact, residents who recently discovered a charter school proposed at the intersection of Hillsboro Blvd and University Drive may not have been aware that Academica had an option to buy the property as far back as 2014. Even former Mayor Michael Udine predicted it would be built.
In an interview with Broward Beat in 2014, he said it [charter school] would get the support of parents. “This will be very successful because it will be done right. It will not be a storefront charter school. I’ve been told this will have all the bells and whistles.”
The ball got rolling when faced with over 2,300 new homes being built in the ‘wedge’ portion of the city, School Board Member Abby Freedman proposed in 2014 that as a way to guarantee classroom space for Parkland students, they would be bussed to Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach schools, which raised a firestorm of protests. Her boundary proposal, whether it was a way to pressure the district to build another school in Parkland, or ease the new construction, was never approved and the district never built a new school.
Udine explained that when the community meetings about the schools took place, his goal was the same as what is stated in the Parkland strategic plan, which was ‘all children in Parkland attend neighborhood schools in Parkland.’ The city then invested money into expanding the current schools with temporary buildings to keep students from being transferred outside of the city.
“We were then told that if we got the school board dollars so they could expand the current schools, we would be fine, and all boundaries would be respected. Parkland, through the Education Advisory Board fund, kicked in $11 million for the current school expansions.”
In May of 2016, Debuys Property Investment Group sold the parcel on the corner of University Drive and Hillsboro Boulevard for $5 million to Parkland School Property LLC. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the registered agent of the company is Rosanne Wright, who shares the same business address as Academica Charter Schools Facility LLC.
Undine said the best option would have been if Broward County Public Schools would have built a new school on the land that Parkland gave them, but they can’t or won’t.
“Broward County Public Schools should be building a school, period,” said Udine. They have the land that Parkland gave them. If they won’t build another school, and if they continue to say they are never building another Broward County Public school, then communities are going to have to make these types of tough decisions to figure out a way to bring in new schools on their own.”