WRECKING BALL HITS
Boca school will be rebuilt, but debate rages in
Jon Way/staff photo
Construction crews demolished much of the old Boca Raton High School gym Monday. After months of
discussion about moving the school, the Palm Beach County School District decided to rebuild Boca High
on its existing site when the majority of parents favored that plan. A similar controversy is brewing in Delray
Beach over Atlantic High School and could come to a head at a forum on Wednesday.
A tale of two schools
Boca Raton High School rebuilding on current campus, but debate
simmers in Delray Beach over Atlantic High
By Susanna Laurenti
As a massive reconstruction project at Boca Raton High School progressed Monday
with the demolition of the school's gym, casual onlookers would never know how
controversial the question of where to rebuild the school once was.
Deciding the home of the new Boca Raton High was all-consuming for city leaders,
Palm Beach County School District officials and parents for several years beginning in
1999, when then-School Board member Art Johnson proposed moving the 39-year-old
school to the Florida Atlantic University campus.
That plan ultimately fell through, as did another hotly debated option - rebuilding the
school on city-owned property in the former IBM property off Yamato Road, now
called the T-Rex Technology Center.
The matter was ultimately decided in November 2000 by a survey of parents - those
with students enrolled at Boca High and those who would one day send their children
there. The group overwhelming voted to leave Boca High at its existing site, 1501
Northwest 15th Court, even though many residents said the cramped, 30-acre parcel
had become unsuitable to house a modern high school. In any case, construction crews
broke ground on the site earlier this month on the two-year, multi-phase project.
Now, a similar controversy is playing out in Delray Beach. Residents there have locked
horns with city leaders, School Board officials and each other over where to rebuild
51-year-old Atlantic High School, now at 2501 Seacrest Boulevard.
A much-anticipated forum on Wednesday at Old School Square Cultural Arts Center is
expected to draw big crowds and offer residents a chance to hear directly from school
district officials and city leaders about the proposed move. Many are hoping that the
presentation will include concrete numbers about the costs and benefits involved in the
project - figures that have so far been hard to nail down.
The district's original plans called for Atlantic High to be rebuilt at its current site over a
three-year period at a cost of $53.1 million. Malone has estimated that moving the
school would cost between $47 million and $50 million - not including the cost of
buying the land - and would take two years.
The move to relocate the school got a boost late last week from the Greater Delray
Beach Chamber of Commerce, which announced its intention to support city
commissioners in their efforts, agreeing that Atlantic's current site is prone to flooding
and too far from the city's center.
Proponents of rebuilding the school at its present address cited historic and sentimental
reasons and added that the intersection of Atlantic and Congress avenues, near the
proposed new site for the school, is too dangerous for teenagers to walk and drive
Boca High's low-lying site is also prone to flooding, something those who wanted to
move the school repeatedly pointed out to officials. But community sentiment ultimately
won out, said School District Chief of Facilities Bill Malone."Clearly in Boca we
followed the will of the parents who responded to the survey," said Malone.
Complicating the issue in Delray Beach is size of the parcel behind Temple Sinai near
Congress and Atlantic avenues, where city officials hope to rebuild Atlantic High.
Known as the Tate site, the 40-acre parcel is considered too small to ideally house a
high school. To expand the site, the school district or the city would also need to
acquire and demolish 38 homes in the nearby Breezy Ridge neighborhood of
Breezy Ridge residents have repeatedly said they do not want to sell their homes. But a
Jacksonville public relations firm, hired by the city to individually poll Breezy Ridge
homeowners, said recently that many are willing to reconsider.
The question could be settled by a survey similar to the one mailed out to Boca High
parents, said Candy Killian, an Atlantic alumni and mother of five whose daughter
attends the school.
"We feel a survey is the only equitable way to resolve where the school should be built,"
said Killian last week, just after drawing up a sample survey and sending it to school
Facilities Chief Malone said Monday that he had seen the survey and forwarded it to
Delray Beach leaders so they could add information to it. He said he would not know if
the survey would be mailed to parents until after the city sponsors the two community
forums on the future of Atlantic High School. "If 20,000 people show up to meeting and
a high percentage favors one over the other, I think it will be clear what needs to be
done. If it is not clear, we may do the survey."
Malone said school district officials would present four options for rebuilding Atlantic -
leaving it where it is, rebuilding it on the Tate property in two different configurations,
or moving it to another piece of land known as the Arvida Property off Military Trail.