Brevard School Board OKs plan to build schools, reopen South Lake
Elementary level primary area of concern
BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Brevard County is getting two new elementary schools under a five-year capacity plan approved unanimously by the School Board Tuesday night.
Over the next five years, the district will add 92 portables around the county, redraw district lines, build a 12-classroom addition at Cocoa High and construct two new elementary schools in Viera and West Melbourne.
"The elementary level is our primary area of concern, where we really need to do something in order to manage the growth," said Dane Theodore, assistant superintendent of Facilities Services.
News 6 partner Florida Today reported each elementary school will cost $20 million to build and $1 million each year in operating costs. The additional portables will cost $4.4 million, and about 1,400 students will be impacted by the attendance boundary changes.
Superintendent Desmond Blackburn held a series of open forums around the county to pinpoint community priorities to develop the following plan:
- 2017-18: Add 13 portables around the county, design a 12-classroom addition building at Cocoa Jr./Sr. High and approve attendance boundary changes.
- 2018-19: Add 26 more portables, construct a 12-classroom addition building at Cocoa High and design a new elementary school for Viera.
- 2019-20: Add nine more portables, open the Cocoa High classroom addition, construct a new elementary school in Viera and approve boundary changes to accommodate the new school.
- 2020-21: Add 14 more portables, approve attendance boundary changes for the 2021-22 school year, open a new elementary school in Viera and design a new elementary school for West Melbourne.
- 2021-22: Add 30 portables, construct a new elementary school in West Melbourne and approve boundary changes to accommodate that school.
The decision to add so many portables drew some concern.
"Why are we building 90 portables? That's like a cry for help," said parent Kayla Spellman. " ... Portables are great, they give you incremental capacity, but they're not intended to address long-term capacity issues. They're expensive to operate and maintain, they don't have the same useful life as a permanent structure, they provide an inferior learning environment, they're not as secure for weather or in a lockdown situation."
Board members John Craig and Tina Descovich agreed that portables are not ideal, but they were the best solution in order to avoid taking on additional debt.
Vanessa Skipper, second vice president of the Brevard Federation of Teachers, lauded the decision to build a classroom addition at Cocoa High, where she teaches English.
With so many portables on campus, she said, "I watch my student daily run in the rain and then freeze in my classroom."
As part of the five-year plan, the district will also reopen South Lake Elementary as a choice school in Titusville in time for the 2018-19 school year. It will cost $1 million to convert the facility, which will likely be covered by impact fees, and an additional $1 million each year in operating costs.
"If you do an analysis of what the district has to offer, there's nothing in the north area in regard to choice," said Stephanie Archer, assistant superintendent for the Division of Equity, Choice and Innovation.
The School Board voted to close South Lake in 2013, along with Gardendale Elementary on Merritt Island and Clearlake Middle School in Cocoa. Riverview Elementary in Titusville was shut down the year before.
As a choice school, South Lake would enroll 466 students, who would need to apply be chosen through a lottery. Its opening is expected to alleviate some of the overcrowding issues in Titusville, where the population has nearly returned to what it was before the conclusion of the NASA shuttle program in 2011.
Over the past few weeks, the district has held community forums to brainstorm with parents and teachers what the focus of the choice program should be. So far, STEAM – science, technology, engineering, arts and math – has been the top contender.
The board also approved Tuesday night a separate agenda item to lease the land in Viera previously donated for a future middle school.
The 28-acre parcel of land just north of Viera High will be leased to Brevard Production Inc. to house the Space Coast State Fair. The land was donated to the school district by The Viera Co. in 2015, along with five other school sites in Viera.
Under the lease, Brevard Production Inc. would use the land in the spring and fall on a year-to-basis for $71,000 per year – $36,000 in cash and $35,000 in advertising with Space Coast Daily, which is also owned by the production company. As soon as the land is needed for construction, the lease would end.
There has been a continuous call for a middle school to be built in Viera. However, Theodore says there would not be a need for a middle school in that area for at least the next five years.
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