Good told the Sun Sentinel the city is not trying to take over these schools, and most city commissioners have voiced opposition to the district closing schools. But if the district were to close them anyways, “we’d like to continue to provide education for our neighborhoods. We don’t want those schools to go away.”

The A-rated Pembroke Pines charter school system is a popular option for students in the south end of of the county, serving about 6,000 students with a waiting list of about 5,000. It was created in the late 1990s after the school district was slow to build new schools to accommodate explosive growth in Pembroke Pines area.

The school district caught up in the 2000s, but then many other charter schools started opening the area, including Franklin Academy, Somerset Academy and Renaissance Charter School at Pines. That’s resulted in many district-run schools in the city being underenrolled. The district-run Pines Middle is the lowest enrolled school in the county at 34.5%.

Lynn Norman-Teck, executive director of the Florida Charter School Alliance, a membership group, didn’t respond to requests either in February or this week asking whether charter schools are interested in schools vacated by the district. But she expressed interest in 2020, when the district was also discussing whether to close schools.

“Charter schools would happily lease that facility, where the community is happy and the district is happy. It’s a win-win,” Norman-Teck said in February 2020. “A parent doesn’t really care who is running the school. They just want a great school.”

Board member Torey Alston, one of the more charter-school-friendly members on the School Board, said he’s open to this use for district property that may not be needed.

“District surplus property is just that. Surplus items should be available to the business community if the district expresses the need to remove the property from our inventory,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “If there was an opportunity for the City of Pembroke Pines or anyone else, that shows a level playing field.”

Hepburn told the Sun Sentinel on May 9 the possibility of charter schools taking over district schools did not factor into his initial recommendations. He said he proposed keeping all Pembroke Pines schools open because there are a large and growing number of students in the area who are choosing other options.

He has recommended changing several schools in the area, including turning Pines Middle into a 6-12 collegiate academy and converting Silver Shores Elementary in nearby Miramar to a K-8 school.

“It would not be wise of us to close schools in the area when there are so many students in the area,” Hepburn said. “It’s better for us to offer more innovative programs where we’re considered an option for parents to choose us instead of the competition.