District Official Outlines Effect Of Development On Schools

Palm Beach County School District Boundaries & Demographics Manager Jason Link reported on the effect of planned development on school boundaries in the western communities at the Royal Palm Beach Education Advisory Board meeting Monday.

Most of the area’s existing schools are currently under capacity limit and will not experience overcrowding from an estimated 15,000 homes to be built in the next several decades, Link said.

Arden, located off State Road 80 near 20-Mile Bend, opening in early 2017, anticipates that its 2,000 homes will generate an estimated 266 elementary, 172 middle school and 246 high school students for a total of 684 students affecting Binks Forest Elementary School, Wellington Landings Middle School and Wellington High School. Buildout is not expected until at least 2027.

Westlake, on Seminole Pratt Whitney Road, approved for 4,546 homes, including 500 adult-only homes, is expected to get underway over the next year. It will generate 538 elementary, 348 middle school and 498 high school students for a total of 1,384 students. Buildout is estimated at 2035.

Avenir, in Palm Beach Gardens, with 3,250 units commencing in 2018, will generate 432 elementary, 280 middle school and 400 high school students. Buildout is estimated at 2041.

GL Homes’ Indian Trails Grove, located northwest of The Acreage, has 3,897 units commencing in 2019. It is projected to generate 518 elementary, 335 middle school and 479 high school students. Buildout is estimated in 2032.

The Iota Carol project, which has not yet received final approval for 1,030 homes just south of GL Homes, would generate 137 elementary, 86 middle school and 350 high school students.

“You’ve got nearly 15,000 total homes among all these large-scale developments, almost 1,900 elementary school students, a little over 1,200 middle school students and about 1,750 high school students, for a total of almost 5,000 students who will eventually, we estimate, be generated from these developments,” Link said. “That’s at 100 percent buildout, which will not come until the 2030s, but as we continue to march along, these numbers will continue to grow, and these estimates are subject to change.”

In addition to existing schools, the district has received tentative dedicated school sites from the developers.

“Mitigation can be money or it can be funding for classroom additions, but most of these developers have dedicated land, in which case, when it is time for these schools to be built, it will be the district that will have to pay for those actual buildings,” Link said.

Avenir has dedicated one elementary school site. GL Homes has dedicated an elementary and a middle school site. The district has a land bank site for a new high school just northeast of the GL Homes project.

“In the future, we will be needing a new high school, and that’s where the new high school will be constructed, eventually,” Link said.

Minto’s Westlake has dedicated an elementary school site, and a boundary change is proposed for the middle schools in that area.

“Minto is split between two middle schools, Western Pines and Osceola Creek,” he said. “Western Pines, being overcrowded as it has been for many years, and Osceola Creek, being at about 65 percent utilization, the proposal would move all future Westlake development to Osceola Creek beginning in August 2017, so all folks who buy those new homes, they’ll know what middle school they will be attending.”

Western Pines, meanwhile, has about 17 old wooden portables that the district wants to get rid of.

“The only other solution would be to replace those wooden portables with newer modular-type units, or move existing families out of the Western Pines zone,” Link said. “Western Pines has been within that zone for many, many years, over 15 years. They consider themselves part of that community, so it’s just a matter of moving existing families for folks who haven’t bought homes yet, or move future development, so we propose moving that community to an excellent school, Osceola Creek, as they have plenty of space to accommodate the future students.”

Arden, currently zoned for Binks Forest Elementary School, has dedicated a future elementary school site. He added that the district has a land bank site in Wellington, but its specific use has not yet been determined.

Link stressed that most of the schools in the area can accommodate the initial surge in population, but eventually there will not be enough space.

The options to accommodate new students include program changes such as pre-K locations or choice programs, boundary changes, capping, adding capacity to existing schools or building new schools.

“You can look to shift programs to another school that has space,” Link said. “We have done that where it doesn’t involve boundary changes. You can free up a fair amount of seats in many cases.”

Capping is an option that is not used frequently and must be approved by the school board, he said. “We usually try to put something in the pipeline so we don’t reach that point,” Link said.

Capital expense options are adding capacity to an existing school and building new schools.

“If we are at a level where the school is becoming overcrowded, and we still don’t need a new school for a couple of years, we can always add modulars, classroom addition,” he said. “Again, that is a capital expense and that would require board approval. As I mentioned, we have new school sites where we can initiate construction on one of those elementary, middle or high school sites.”

No new schools are in the district’s five-year capital plan for the central western communities, but the plan is updated annually to adjust for changing needs.

“Most of these schools have capacity to initially accommodate all these students coming from these developments,” Link said. “The only exception is really Western Pines, which is already at 106 percent utilization.”


ABOVE: Royal Palm Beach Elementary School made a presentation to the village’s Education Advisory Board on Monday. Shown here are members of the school’s chorus and sign language club.