Palm Beach County School Board members today clearly said that they want arts high school and middle school magnet programs in southern Palm Beach County opened as early as the 2014-2015 school year.
But they found little consensus at this afternoon’s board workshop on the daunting questions of where to create those schools and how to pay for them.
Cheryl Alligood, the school district’s chief academic officer, presented several options for creating long-sought-after arts high or middle schools in the southern half of the county. The only high school campus identified as a possible option was Boynton Beach High, which Alligood estimated would cost about $650,000 in facilities upgrades to add an arts magnet.
Board members Karen Brill, Frank Barbieri and Jennifer Prior Brown said putting an arts program at Boynton Beach High looked like the best option simply because of the low cost and existing theater facilities.
But Alligood said Boynton High’s population is expected to grow to 83 percent of capacity by 2018, and may not have enough room to accommodate an arts program without moving other students out through future boundary changes. That prompted board members to ask for student enrollment projections with an arts program to help with making a decision.
“Boynton Beach High School makes the most sense,” Brown said. “Then we need to understand what are the human costs … Do we have to move kids out?”
Regarding middle school magnets, Alligood presented several options, including spending up to $18 million to house 100 more students at Plumosa School of the Arts elementary in Delray Beach and as much as $8.85 million for a theater and other upgrades at Congress Middle School in Boynton Beach.
On the middle schools, board members were much more divided. Brill, for example, asked staff to look into an alternate plan of moving a new robotics and animation academy from Odyssey Middle School in suburban Boynton Beach to Congress Middle, and then putting the arts school at Odyssey instead. And board member Mike Murgio suggested turning Carver Middle School in Delray Beach into either an arts middle or high school.
South county parents have been lobbying for arts schools of their own like Bak Middle School of the Arts and Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, both in West Palm Beach, since at least 2001.
Many of those parents also want the district to make those south county arts magnets nearly 100 percent choice schools — like Dreyfoos and Bak — where noone gets to automatically attend for living in a certain boundary. But Vice Chairwoman Debra Robinson vehemently opposes that idea, raising concerns about displacing existing neighborhood students who would have to be moved to other schools.
“I do not support disadvantaging [sic] children anymore than we already do,” Robinson said.
Alligood said district officials will need several more workshops with the board before recommending any specific plan for approval.