Parkland is ready to take up the responsibility of building seven modular classrooms at Heron Heights and Park Trails elementary schools, if that is what it takes to ensure that the facilities will be ready by the start of the 2016-2017 school year.
City officials directed staff to write a letter informing the Broward County School Board that the city was willing to construct the facilities and turn them over to the school board.
The directive comes in the backdrop of the school board failing to honor its promise of having the classrooms ready before school reopens later this month.
At a recent meeting, the City Commission had approved an amended agreement with the School Board, giving the latter time until July 2016 to construct the classrooms.
As per the agreement, the School Board has to have a contract in place for the construction of the facilities by this September.
The preferred option for the city, at least officially, is the School Board completing construction of the facilities in time for the 2016-2017 school year. City officials, however, aren’t convinced that will happen.
“At this point, I have lost confidence in their ability to do what they promised to do,” said Commissioner Mark Weissman, who was the one to suggest that the city formally write to the School Board on the issue.
“I would prefer that they go ahead and allow us to build the facilities; we can then turn them over to the School Board.”
The city had, in 2014, given the School Board about $2 million for the construction of the modulars.
The initial plan was to build eight classrooms, but the number was later reduced to seven. According to the new plan, Heron Heights would get four classrooms and Park Trails three.
Mayor Michael Udine said that while he preferred the School Board constructing the classrooms, it was important that the city showed its willingness to step in, if needed. “If they send the money back and tell us where they want the classrooms, we will do it,” he said. “We will step up and get it done.”
The School Board had issued a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the construction of the modulars last October. When that proved unsuccessful, it issued another RFP, but later had to throw out all three bids. A third RFP attracted five bids, but the top bidder was found to be $1 million over the budget.
As part of its plans to address the issue of overcrowding in public schools, the city intends to give about $8 million to the School Board for constructing 24 new classrooms in time for the 2018 academic year. Weissman, for one, isn’t confident about partnering with the School Board again.
“There is no question that it will be done in a more timely manner if we do it,” Weissman said. “If the School Board lets the city build the modulars, it would be my suggestion to do the same thing with the 24 classrooms. But we will take one step at a time.”
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