By: Sharon Aron Baron
Several hundred residents turned up in green shirts to protest the proposed relocation of Coral Springs Charter school to Betti Stradling Park on Thursday evening
Held at the Charter School auditorium, residents lined up to share their opinions – which primarily were against moving the school to the public park.
“People bought homes with the expectations that this would be a park,” said one resident. “If you build something else there you are betraying them.”
Another asked if anyone favored the proposed move. Only one person shouted “yes” while others in the audience screamed “no”.
Coral Springs Charter School has been located on Sample and University since 1999 and the new location is being proposed at Betti Stradling Park north of Wiles Road and east of Coral Springs Drive.
The school is owned and operated by the City of Coral Springs and the city holds the charter. The city also owns the land and the building at the existing location. Under the proposal, the city would lease the land in the Betti Stradling parking lot to the Coral Springs charter school.
The city currently contracts with Charter Schools USA for the operation of the charter school and they would continue to operate the school on the city’s behalf as well as serve as the “landlord” for the school. Charter Schools USA would fund and finance the costs of constructing the school building and the parking garage, if required. They would then lease the building to the Coral Springs Charter School. According to the city, no tax dollars would be utilized to fund the transaction.
Allan Berkowitz, of Coral Springs said that the city opened a pandora’s box. “Those that vote to place that school at Betti Stradling Park, you mark my words, your days as a commissioner are over.”
Mayor Skip Campbell and Commissioner Larry Vignola were not present at the meeting.
In a statement on Facebook, Campbell wrote, “First, let me me thank you for taking such an interest in what is happening in your city. I am truly sorry that I was unable to attend the meeting last night. For five months, I have had a trip planned with my brothers and sisters to visit Ireland where our mother is from, who past away not too long ago. Had it not been for me being away, I would have been there to hear the residents concerns.
When the city staff recommended moving the Charter School to Betti Stradling Park, they presented the idea to me with the assumption that they had already met with the residents who would be directly affected by the move. It is clear to me now that never happened. I have not met or heard from a single person or family that is in favor of this move. So for that reason, I will not be voting in favor of moving the Charter School to Betti Straddling Park. I think the city needs to go back to the “drawing boards” and look at other potentially viable locations.”
Both Commissioners Lou Cimaglia and Joy Carter, who were present, said they were against the idea of moving the school to Betti Stradling Park.
In a statement on Friday, Carter wrote, “I heard you, and will not vote in favor of relocating the Charter School to Betty Stradling park.“
Vice Mayor Dan Daley, who arrived late due to a conflict with another meeting, said he is all for a move, however, he is not sold on that location.
“I’d like for staff to take a fresh look at options.”