Long-awaited Boca High
project finally underway
Adults Optimistic, but students skeptical about construction hassles.
Local officials break ground for a new Boca Raton High School -
The $50 million, state-of-the-art replacement for the city's oldest
high school will be built on the schools current site and should be
finished by August 2004. Among those pictured are Boca Raton
Mayor Steven Abrams, School Board Member Susan Whelchel,
Schools Superintendent Art Johnson and at the far right, Boca High
Principal Ed Harris.
By Susanna Laurenti
Educators at Monday's groundbreaking ceremony on the soon-to-be-revamped Boca
Raton High School campus had high hopes.
They said the rebuilt school, to be constructed in stages while students attend class,
would be magnificent enough to justify the inconvenience of the 30-month building
Students already had their doubts. Most will graduate before the $50 million project is
completed in August 2004 and a temporary change in the school's parking policy has
many juniors and seniors upset.
"They should not have taken away our parking lot. A lot of people depend on being able
to drive to school." Said 11th-grader Cindy Ferman. "They should have started this
project in the summer."
Boca High's student parking lot was turned over to teachers last week, because the
faculty parking lot is one of the first areas scheduled for demolition. In the meantime,
students wishing to drive to school must demonstrate to officials their need to do so.
Acceptable reasons would include enrollment, for example, in a school-to-work
program that requires them to leave school early and go to a job.
Assistant Principal Sandra Roberts said the situation would last only eight weeks, but
students were nonetheless annoyed. Some, like junior Andrew Gratzon, said they
wished the new school were being built elsewhere.
"They should let us finish high school without this construction. They are ruining
everybody else's graduation." He said.
The concept of building the replacement school somewhere other than Boca High's
existing Northwest 15th Court site was extensively discussed by parents and school
district leaders last year and was the topic of heated community debate. Eventually, an
informal survey revealed that a majority of current and future Boca High families
wanted to see the school stay where it is.
School and local officials at Monday's groundbreaking festivities included Boca Raton
Mayor Steve Abrams, School Board Member Susan Whelchel, Schools Superintendent
Art Johnson and several former Boca High principals, including Clara DeFrank, who led
the school for five years in the 1980s.
"We put up with a lot in this facility. I'm elated to see it finally rebuilt." She said.
The new school's cafeteria would be built first, said Assistant Principal for Construction
Jay Darr, while the existing cafeteria, gymnasium and music and ROTC rooms are
demolished. Displaced classes will move into portable classrooms behind the school.
Boca High, built in the early 1960s, has long suffered from age-related maintenance
problems such as mold, leaky roofs and corridors that were prone to flooding.
As rebuilt, the school will include two academic classroom buildings - one a two story
structure, the other three stories - along with a new cafeteria, administration building,
gymnasium and locker building, an auditorium and music building and a media building.
The existing science building and athletic locker buildings will be maintained.
A recently implemented plan to place a technology program at the new Boca High has
not changed construction plans, said Assistant principal Roberts.
"The school will just be more wired, for Internet and everything, but we were really
planning on that anyway." She said.
The technology program will complement a technology-focused middle school that
district officials hope to build in the T-Rex technologies center off Yamato Road west
of Interstate 95. A 150,000-square-foot building formerly owned by IBM and in the
process of being purchased by the district last month will be part of that school.