By: Sharon Aron Baron
A Kings Point resident approached me at a neighborhood meeting in April and said, “I heard that the city is looking into another high school again.”
Remembering the debacle from last year where the city manager proposed using seven acres of public park space near Kings Point to build a charter school I told him it wasn’t likely. But just to be sure, I asked City Commissioner Pam Bushnell who was sitting in the front row. She laughed and said and said that they were not considering another high school in Tamarac.
I told the resident this, and he seemed relieved.
Three weeks later, the city commission met at the workshop meeting regarding prior discussions with Broward County school officials that had been going on for several months. The subject?
You guessed it.
I’ve never been against having a high school in the City of Tamarac, but it has to be done in a practical way. We have three public high schools that our students currently attend: JP Taravella, Piper and Boyd Anderson. Yes, many in the city forget that residents that live east of University are in the Boyd Anderson boundaries. It seems to be the forgotten high school out east.
Fortunately for residents, this newly proposed school would not require building in park space – nor would it be located in a strip center. This proposed alternative, or magnet, high school would utilize an adjacent, unused three-story building at Millennium Middle School. Under the proposal, the school would essentially be changed from a middle to a 6-12 school with the high school becoming a collegiate academy where students would take college courses along with their high school curriculum.
But it’s not a done deal yet.
Patrick Sipple Director of Demographics & Student Assignments said it hasn’t really been discussed with the public, and right now it is in the proposal stages.
“The city, or a community member, needs to make a proposal for it during the 2017-2018 school boundary process which will begin after May 24,” said Sipple. “Even though the boundaries aren’t being changed, the residents are making a proposal for a grade reconfiguration.”
Several departments such as facility and transportation would also get involved to look at the building and bus routes prior to the school board discussing it in the winter and spring the following year he said.
Millennium currently has 126 students under its permanent capacity so it has the space to accommodate more. The school could resemble a smaller version of a Pompano Beach High School, which is a top rated magnet school, and it could also limit the students that enroll to only high achievers. Also, by enticing students to stay on for high school, they believe more local students will be attracted to attending their hometown school.
“Millennium is such a successful school that it’s a huge beacon for students to transfer over from other areas all over the county,” said Joseph Beck Demographics Specialist with Broward Schools. “An obvious consequence will be that is that approximately 400 students from outside of the boundaries have transferred over.”
Millennium Middle School Principal Dr. Cheryl Cendan stated that “They want this to be a city-run high school.” Unfortunately, only cities that hold a charter for a school can actually run a school. As proposed, the school would continue being run by Broward County Public Schools.
The proposed school would first start with a small freshman class of 75 students and each year add an additional class until they had four grades.
“The one thing that we said back at the workshop was that we we’re going to keep it open for Tamarac students first. So the 75 seats for the high school will go to Tamarac residents first that are at Millennium already, “ said Cendan.
But Sipple said you cannot limit a county school to residents from just one particular city.
“You can’t if it’s a magnet program, it would be opened up to everybody. Given the discussions and sitting down with demographers, some of our schools do have choice areas – or reserve seat areas. For instance, our Beachside Montessori Village Center, they have 150 reserved seats, so something like that can be discussed. It’s really up to the community sitting down with our staff.”
Mayor Harry Dressler, a proponent of the school said, “The primary goal of a school such as Millennium in a city such as Tamarac is to provide direct and immediate service to the residents of that city.”
But not all Tamarac students are in the Millennium boundaries. Both Commissioner Gomez and Bushnell have students that attend other middle schools. Bushnell said she would offer her support, however, had to have a map pulled up because she didn’t know where students in her district went to middle school.
Said Principal Cendan, “It’s a win win win win. We haven’t found one area where we had to say ‘okay hold on a minute, let’s really think about this.’”