When the new Palm Beach State College campus opened in Loxahatchee Groves earlier this year, it heralded a milestone in higher education here in the western communities. It was billed as a campus that would grow over the next 50 years with a stated focus on the health sciences. Now, the college has a chance to prove if that was just rhetoric or reality.
Later this month, the leadership at PBSC is expected to decide between the new Loxahatchee Groves campus or the long-established Lake Worth campus for a new building to house its well-known dental technology program, home to degree programs in dental assisting and dental hygiene.
In June, the Florida Legislature allocated $5 million for the new facility, far short of the $21.7 million requested for the entire project. While it is enough to get the project underway with design work and planning, college leaders will need to pursue the remaining funds from the state in future years. Meanwhile, school officials held public forums this week gathering input on which campus to build the new, state-of-the-art building.
The new Dental and Medical Services Technology Building will replace the 55-year-old structure on the Lake Worth campus and provide a new home for the college’s degree and adult vocational certificate programs in dental fields. The programs are the only such programs in Palm Beach County accredited by the American Dental Association’s Commission on Dental Accreditation, and graduates have been a mainstay of the dental health workforce in the county for decades.
The program is currently housed in Lake Worth, which wants to retain the operation and get a brand-new medical building as part of the process. Which is nice, and speaks to history and tradition. But at face value, there shouldn’t even be a debate; the new campus in Loxahatchee Groves was designed to be a medical technology hub. This alone should make the decision clear.
Loxahatchee Groves has a distinct advantage when it comes to available space. Lake Worth’s campus is built out; the existing structure would need to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch. But the Loxahatchee Groves campus isn’t handcuffed by this issue; there’s currently only one building on the campus, with room to build a dozen more.
Not surprisingly, elected officials in Royal Palm Beach, Wellington and Loxahatchee Groves have thrown their full support behind locating the program here in the western communities. That support has been joined by local dental and other health professionals. And Dr. Maria Vallejo — provost for the PBSC campuses in Loxahatchee Groves and Belle Glade, as well as vice president for growth and expansion at the college — noted recently that construction of the future academic building could be more effective at the Loxahatchee Groves location.
“It would not disrupt the program, because if you’re building a building, you have to tear down what you have. I would never want to have the students be on hold for a year or two until a new building is built,” Vallejo said at a recent Wellington Village Council meeting. “So, it’s easier to build a building on a different site, and then just have those students as soon as they’re ready to move forward into that new site.”
We couldn’t agree more, and encourage Palm Beach State College to move the program to Loxahatchee Groves.