Boundary changes to fill Blue Lake Elementary and relieve crowding in Boca Raton approved

The Palm Beach Post | By Sonja Isger | April 14, 2022

Plans to fill the new Blue Lake Elementary and relieve crowding at three other schools in Boca Raton were finalized by the Palm Beach County School Board on Wednesday. 

The board signed off on redrawing school boundaries in a way that moved roughly 800 students out of their assigned campus when school opens in the fall.

The effort will most significantly relieve crowding at Calusa Elementary, where more than 1,250 students attend on a campus built in 1987 to house 968.

Until now, administrators tackled crowding at Calusa by adding more than 30 temporary classrooms to its fields. They carved other classrooms from computer labs and administrative spaces. But it’s been more difficult to significantly stretch the cafeteria, library, hallway and restroom capacity.

These are the official boundary changes for Blue Lake Elementary.
These are the official boundary changes for Blue Lake Elementary. Palm Beach County School District

In the boundary shift, Calusa’s enrollment is projected to fall closer to 900 students. In the course of the following four years, Calusa’s enrollment is expected to peak at about 960, making it the least crowded of the five schools involved in the redrawing of attendance zones.

Meanwhile, Blue Lake Elementary will open on 15 acres neighboring Don Estridge High Tech Middle with about 1,000 seats and an incoming enrollment of about 740 students, according to district projections. The wiggle room is key in a region that is seeing a surge of residents. 

The shifts also relieve crowding at Addison Mizner and Verde, both recently rebuilt to  house kindergarten through grade 8. The middle schools on those campuses are choice programs that are filled by lottery with weight given to upcoming fifth-graders. 

The attendance zones that will kick in next August also boosts enrollment at J.C. Mitchell Elementary. 

The boundary drawing process began in the fall. The first efforts drew wide opposition from some communities that were redirected out of Calusa and into Blue Lake, which sits on Military Trial south of Spanish River Boulevard — once within Calusa’s sprawling attendance zone.

A  second map fared better with that crowd but still met with some opposition. Parents were particularly worried about any changes that would demand students walk by busy streets to cross dangerous intersections. The district’s transportation officials addressed concerns on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.  

Those who continued to object included a faction of parents whose children would be taken out of the K-8 and sent to a traditional elementary. Several parents also objected to being sent specifically to J.C. Mitchell, a school they said was not as academically successful as the one they were leaving. 

Wednesday’s vote concludes any boundary changes for the next school year. When fall rolls around, the district’s boundary committee will begin considering changes needed to address two new schools, a middle school west of Boynton Beach next to Sunset Palms Elementary and a new high school referred to as “OOO” for now situated on Lyons Road south of Lake Worth Road. Both schools are due to open in August 2023. 

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