Will Boca elementary school stay at same site or move to beloved park?

A dilapidated elementary school could be rebuilt on unused land at one of Boca Raton’s most beloved parks — but not all parents zoned for Addison Mizner Elementary school are supportive of the plan.

The Palm Beach County School District aims to rebuild Addison Mizner Elementary, a 50-year-old school currently located on an 11-acre lot at the center of a neighborhood on Southwest 12th Avenue between Palmetto Park Road and Camino Real.

Overcrowding of southern Palm Beach County schools has prompted the school district to convert Addison Mizner, as well as nearby Verde Elementary School, into kindergarten through 8th-grade schools.

» READ: Boca board to buy golf course, re-brand it as ‘Boca National Golf Club’

Two choices for school

The district has two options for Addison Mizner, said Frank Barbieri, a school board member whose district includes Boca Raton:

  • Rebuild on its current site, which is so small that parents can expect limited space for athletic fields, Barbieri said.
  • Rebuild on 24 acres of unused land at Sugar Sand Park, on Camino Real and Palmetto Park Road across Interstate 95. It’s about a mile west of the current site.

Barbieri and Boca Raton officials sought input from parents Thursday night at Boca Raton Middle School.

Several parents expressed concerns about moving the school west, which would force children to cross train tracks and busy I-95 off-ramps.

The district would post crossing guards at major intersections and re-route buses accordingly, Barbieri said.

Other parents said they moved to neighborhoods near Addison Mizner specifically to walk their children to a community school.

Holli Sutton, who has one child at Addison Mizner, initially supported the decision to move Addison Mizner. Following the meeting, she isn’t so sure, she said.

“I think it should stay where it is,” Sutton said. “I walk my kids to school every single day. I moved here specifically for Addison Mizner.”

Sutton wants to see more specific plans, she said, but appreciates the option of moving to Sugar Sand Park.

Others whole-heartedly supported the plan to move Addison Mizner to Sugar Sand Park, one of the city’s most visited parks.

“We appreciate the community school,” said Lauren Wallach, who has two children at Addison Mizner. “But we need more space.”

Susie Cox, the physical education teacher at Addison Mizner, chastised the athletic fields at the current location.

“I don’t know if any of you have been out on our fields, but they really are terrible,” said Cox, who supports relocating the school. “I want to do the best thing for your kids, but I can’t do it.”

Wallach said she wants to see a traffic study since traffic and safety are priorities for parents.

Where at park would it be built?

If built at Sugar Sand, it likely would be at the southeast portion of the park, with an entrance for parents on Camino Real, separate from the park’s main entrance on Military Trail.

But this plan, in its earliest stages, hinges on permission from the Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District, a taxing body that owns the 132-acre Sugar Sand Park.

The beach and park district agreed in September to consider parting with a portion of Sugar Sand. That may include a land-swap deal, which would grant the district Addison Mizner’s current site.

If the beach and park district isn’t amenable to that plan, the school district also could sell the school land to a private buyer, then use that money to buy land from the beach and park district.

That presents the possibility of a developer building homes or other buildings on the land.

Both Barbieri and Boca Raton Councilman Scott Singer said they want to avoid large-scale development in the middle of the residential area.

School district needs an answer soon

Barbieri said the school district must decide on a location by the end of this school year.

The district will further seek input from parents online.

The school district already is in the midst of expanding Verde Elementary School, on Verde Trail east of Powerline Road, a project that likely will last until 2020.

If Addison Mizner is rebuilt at its current site, students would temporarily move to Verde Elementary, which would add another layer of intense traffic there.

If Addison Mizner is rebuilt at its current site, it likely won’t be completed until 2022; relocating to Sugar Sand likely would take less time, Barbieri said.

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