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More than 300 students at 6 Boca schools shuffled to relieve crowding

Children living in more than 60 Boca Raton neighborhoods will be changing schools next year to give the most crowded elementary in the county some relief, the Palm Beach County School Board ruled in its final vote on the matter Wednesday.

Calusa Elementary will see its rolls drop by about 160 students when the changes go into effect, but those aren’t the only students who will change campuses.

The schools surrounding Calusa are so close to capacity themselves that a chain of moves involving more than 300 students at six schools in all was required. Children in grades four or five will be allowed to stay at their current school, and any siblings they have in kindergarten through third grade also can remain as long as their parents provide transportation.

Additionally, some neighborhoods in the northern reaches of Calusa’s boundaries will be given priority if they choose to apply for entry to Morikami Elementary, a Delray Beach choice school at which enrollment is done completely by lottery.

Calusa has needed some kind of fix for at least three years.

Built in 1987, the campus is designed for 836 students but counted 1,204 in October. The district has stretched the school’s capacity with 14 portable classrooms. The principal carved additional space from administrative offices, kitchen nooks and computer labs.

Though art and music teachers lack their own rooms and the cafeteria and library have been pushed beyond their capacity, parents were loath to move children and were vocal at advisory boundary committee and community input meetings.

At least three proposals were discussed, but the one that eventually earned the board’s blessing was the one that moved the fewest children. That has raised some concern that it won’t be enough, and as new homes are built in the region, crowding may again become an issue.

The district boundary offices estimates the changes will send 138 Calusa students to J.C. Mitchell, and 27 to Whispering Pines, while moving 82 from J.C. Mitchell to Addison Mizner, 18 from J.C. Mitchell to Boca Raton and 67 students from Whispering Pines to Sunrise Park.

Only three other boundary changes under consideration for next fall. District officials hope to relieve crowding at Forest Hill High by moving an estimated 182 students living north of Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard to Palm Beach Lakes High. In future years, middle schoolers in those same neighborhoods would also be moved from Conniston Middle in West Palm Beach to Roosevelt Middle to streamline the feeder pattern. Finally, the district is redrawing middle school boundaries for the students who eventually move into the new community of Westlake once homes there are built. The shift sends the students to Osceola Creek Middle rather than Western Pines Middle.

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