By: Sharon Aron Baron
Residents met at the Center for Performing Arts on Wednesday to learn more about potentially moving Coral Springs Charter School from its current location on University Drive to a new location at Mullins Park. Initially held in a meeting room, the audience had to be moved over to the theater in order to accommodate the large turnout.
The 6-12 grade charter school was opened for the 1999-2000 school year and has been an A-rated school for the past 11 years with a waiting list of 2,200 students. Because the City of Coral Springs holds the charter, Coral Springs residents have first priority when it comes to seats. The school has been in its current location on Sample and University since 1999 and the new location of the charter school is being proposed on what is currently a parking lot at the Center for the Arts.
The presentation was given by Deputy City Manager Susan Grant, Charter Schools USA Vice President of Development Richard Page, Joaquin E. Vargas Senior Transportation Engineer with Traf Tech, and Coral Springs Charter School Principal Gary Springer.
According to Susan Grant, Charter Schools USA, who is the management company for the school, along with its investors, would be responsible for the construction and the development of the new three-story campus which would include a parking garage. They would establish a public and private partnership which would pay to build the facility as well as lease the land from the City. According to the the City, this would result in no public debt or obligation to residents. The City would still own the land, and after a long-term lease, the land, as well as the building would revert back to the City.
The reason why Mullins Park was chosen was that the City owns land which would keep the project costs down, as well as the proximity to City amenities like parks, fields, and the Performing Arts Center – which would make it ideal for the school said Grant.
The plan would call for enrollment of grades 6-12 to go from 1,645 students in year one to 2,100 students by year five with parking that would accommodate 804 cars. Currently, 501 spaces are available for the Performing Arts Center.
One of the requirement comes from the investors from Renaissance Charter Schools, which is owned by Charter Schools USA, would be that 33 out of the 100 ninth grade seats that open up each year will be given to Coral Springs students at two of their Renaissance charter schools located in Coral Springs and Tamarac. The remaining seats will go to those on the waiting list.
Joaquin E. Vargas with Traf Tech Engineering gave an overview of the traffic study and said that there were ten intersections around the project that should operate adequately, therefore needing no improvement, however, the areas requiring improvements would be from 29th street starting at Coral Springs Drive to 99th Ave. These would require lanes being widened, turning lanes made longer, a dedicated left turn lane, and lane re-striping. Also, Broward County would have to change the timing of the traffic signals to accommodate the additional traffic.
He said that drop off and pick up should be easier for parents under the new proposed plan. Currently, only 50 cars can wait in line now.
“The current plan that has been designed for this facility can accommodate about 175. That’s three times more the number of vehicles that can be stacked on site, and that will assure traffic will not spill over to 29th Street or Coral Springs Drive,” said Vargas.
To alleviate some traffic issues with Parkside Elementary’s starting time of 8:00 a.m., Vargas suggested that the charter school begin 15 minutes earlier than its current time of 7:30 a.m. This was met with groans and laughter from the audience. “We’re talking about 15 minutes,” he assured the crowd. “If we start 15 minutes earlier, there’s a big drop in what we call background traffic, traffic on 29th Street, traffic on Coral Springs Drive, and that will help manage the traffic much better – and that was one of the things we have recommended as part of the traffic study for this school.”
One resident asked Principal Gary Springer if there would be a library in the new school. “With regards to that, there isn’t an opportunity for the footprint of the new building for us to add that.” He said that with the new school, they will have additional computer labs as well as electronic devices, but said they didn’t want to get away from printed books. Classrooms will have libraries in them he said.
The principal was asked what the kids could do after school, as they typically went to the Northwest Regional Library to study. The principal said some do go to study at the library, but most don’t. He mentioned that after school, the museum has a great opportunity for after-school programs for the students.
Monsignor Michael Souckar of St Andrew Catholic Church said he was concerned that the safety and security of the children in their own school who would be compromised by high school drivers in the area. It was his hope that the City might be able to find another piece of property for the school.
The biggest concern was from the residents that lived in the area who would be affected by additional traffic.
“It still affects the community, it affects those on 99th, people can still cut through between St Andrew Towers and Parkside,” said resident Alice Simon. “It’s really going to be a mess as far as traffic is concerned. We’ve got our hospital, we’ve got physician’s offices, we’ve got our police and we’ve got our fire. I just want everyone to be aware that they need to get through on 99th avenue and they need to get through on 29th. It’s going to be a zoo.”
Here’s what’s coming next:
Fall 2015 – Entitlements – small scale land use amendment, zoning change, and site plan approval
Early 2016 – Draft Agreements
Spring 2016 – City Commission Action/ Agreements Executed
IF THE COMMISSION APPROVES THE SCHOOL
Summer 2016 – Begin Construction
Fall 2017 – Open at New Location