March 26, 2001
New Boca High moving ahead
Architectural firm expected to be hired this

By Susanna Laurenti

In a fast-growing city that only recently celebrated its 75th birthday, Boca Raton
Community High School seems almost historic.

At 38 years old, the school building is among Boca Raton's oldest structures - and
its dilapidated condition shows its age.

Wednesday, the Palm Beach County School Board will most likely hire the West
Palm Beach architectural firm of Schenkel Shultz to design a new $41-million Boca
High, a project many feel is years overdue.

"It is absolutely about time. This ball has been bouncing long enough," said school
district Chief Academic Officer Art Johnson, who will become the district's next
superintendent Wednesday. "That school is in horrendous shape."

Johnson added that the school at 1501 N.W. 15th Court needed work even when he
was principal of Boca High from 1983 to 1986. Today's principal, Diana Harris, has
complained that the rooms are damp and leaky and that the whole campus is prone
to flooding.

In fact, the threat of rising water at the school's address off Glades Road
contributed to a hard-fought debate over where to build a replacement for Boca
High. Many parents and community members wanted the school to remain where it
is, while some argued to have it moved to one of a variety of larger - and drier -

For a time, options included the campus of Florida Atlantic University and a large
tract of city-owned land at the T-Rex @ Boca Raton technology center, formally
the Blue Lake Corporate Center on Yamato Road just west of Interstate 95.

But plans to move the school to FAU, although popular with parents and
championed by then-School Board member Johnson, fell by the wayside last year
when a financial agreement could not be reached with the university.

"I would still have preferred FAU, as I think most people would have, but that was
never meant to be," said Johnson.

Supporters of moving the school to the T-Rex center site said a larger piece of land
could support an expanded, technologically state-of-the-art high school, complete
with a variety of sports fields and outdoor amenities.

But opponents said the site was too far from downtown Boca Raton and too close
to Spanish River High School, west of Boca Raton, and Pope John Paul II High
School, on Military Trail.

Eventually, the matter was settled when school officials took an unofficial poll of
parents at the school and local families with children in elementary and middle
school. A majority preferred to see Boca High rebuilt where it is.

A specific blueprint for the new Boca High has not yet been created, but the school
will probably be similar to one that Schenkel Shultz built in Naples. Principal Harris
and others visited it last month and praised its security features.

"From the principal's office, it is possible to oversee the entire courtyard," said Bill
Malone, chief of facilities planning for the district. "The building is compact and the
hallways are very short so it is easy to observe students in them."

Also appealing to Harris was a statement by Schenkel Shultz designers that they
could build the new school without destroying the current school's stadium.

Originally, the new Boca High was to be built on the football field while students
attended classes in the existing facility. But that would have meant that Boca High
pupils would have had no access to sports fields for three years.

Under the revised plan, students will remain in the existing school building during
construction, but the football field will be spared.

Construction is likely to begin in May or June and be completed by August 2002,
said Malone.
Art Johnson, former principal of Boca High
from 1983 to 1986. He will be sworn in as
the district's new superintendent next
Wednesday (3/28/01)