By: Sharon Aron Baron
A sea of red shirts that said “Vote No” filled the commission chambers at the Parkland special meeting on Wednesday to protest a proposed charter school in the community.
After 10 hours – and lasting until 3 a.m., the commission finally adjourned, deciding to hold their vote the next day. This was after public comments were heard where dozens of citizens – mostly against the charter school made their opinions clear: they did not want the traffic that the new charter school would bring to the community.
A group called Parkland Against Traffic raised $15,000 to fight the charter school and hired their own traffic engineer to make a presentation at the meeting. Jerry Dabkowski, Sr. Vice President of Governmental Engineering of George Young, said crashes were not mentioned on the applicant’s traffic study, and there were outdated facts that were used. He said the applicant stated the city would experience only .5 percent growth when, in truth, he said it was 3 percent.
He also mentioned that the proposed traffic signals were only 600 feet away from one another. “You just can’t coordinate it or make it work properly,” he said.
Attorney Michael Moskowitz, who represented Somerset Academy, told the commission that the city must treat a charter school the same as a public school, and in his presentation showed how safe the school design was made after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in February.
The K-8 school is proposed for the northwest corner of University Drive and Hillsboro Blvd on 10.59 acres. The school will have 1,280 students once it achieves 100 percent capacity. Traffic Engineer Bryan Kelley, estimated there would be 3,174 daily car trips 180 days a year and compared it to a retail complex on the site, which he expected would have 7,000 daily car trips. To help mitigate the traffic impact, the school redesigned the location to hold an estimated 228 cars for on-site queuing and will have three staggered start and end times for 425-450 students to help ease traffic congestion.
Michael Raskin referred to the charter school as a “corporate factory” and said that it’s no surprise that the supporters were wearing green. “…A factory whose Deerfield Beach location ranks 818 out of 1000 middle schools in the state. A factory in which teachers don’t need college degrees. Half their factories have a B, C, or D rating – what we call a Parkland F.”
Wendy Stav said that they have no intention of serving Parkland kids. “They built this whole model to scale with swinging gates – not one pedestrian gate on the whole model.”
Rabbi Shuey Biston said he was a supporter of school choice: “I wish every school in Parkland looked like this. I will put my faith in the city staff and see that it gets built.”
Leigh Ann David, who moved to Parkland after living near Somerset charter school in Pembroke Pines, was concerned about the police officers the school says they will have on duty. She said in Pembroke Pines that the police officers are missing in action when they have to attend other calls. When she drove there every day, she said they were not always there. “They do not always show up to do their jobs at the school.”
School Board Member Abby Freedman spoke out against the charter school. She said that the reality is, Parkland schools will not be overcrowded according to the five-year plan. If there is no overcrowding, the students will come from outside of Parkland, which will crowd the roads. If they do come from Parkland, you no longer have 100 percent capacity at the public schools. If the number of students dips below, other students will come from outside Parkland to fill those seats through reassignments.
“District Four is the most sought-after district to be assigned to. So we will have more cars at the charter school and the public schools,” said Freedman.
The city commission will vote on the special exception beginning at 5:00 p.m. at Parkland City Hall. To watch Live, go to Parkland Talk.