School Overcrowding – A Growing Issue

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School overcrowding is not just an issue for Palm Beach County or Boca Raton. Cities all over the country are struggling  to maintain a quality educational environment for their children.

Increasing class sizes and overcrowded schools can be traced directly to poorly managed growth.  If school expansion and construction of new schools does not keep pace with increasing student enrollment, student performance may decline along with the quality of the educational experience for students, their families and teachers.

School overcrowding can have numerous consequences which are less than desirable:

  • Students may be forced to eat lunch early or late in the day
  • Traffic congestion and pedestrian safety becomes more of a problem at pick-up and drop-off times.
  • Only a portion of parents can fit into the cafeteria or auditorium to attend events.
  • Parents of high school seniors may be forced to watch their kid graduate on closed-circuit TV.
  • Zoning changes resulting in a redistribution of the student body to alternate schools.

Development is not the only reason why schools become overcrowded, but it is the most controllable.  In particular, residential development such as new homes, townhouses and apartments bring with them new students.

According to the 2015 American Housing Survey homes built between 2010 and 2015 had 26% more occupants under the age of 18 when compared with all homes.  This indicates that the number of students coming from newer homes could be as much as 26% higher than the average.

When enrollment exceeds the design capacity of a school, student academic performance has been shown to decline along with the other facets of the ‘student’ experience.

A ratio of more than 20 students per teacher is generally considered undesirable. Severely crowded schools [>130% of capacity] have a negative impact on reading achievement, and research has also linked overcrowded schools to increased bullying.

The principal finding on a study of class size was that the smaller class size produced substantial improvement in early learning and cognitive studies, and the effect of small class size on the achievement of minority children was initially double that observed for majority children.

According to a Brookings Institution report, 24 states require or actively promote a reduction in class size. However, changing the national class size average by just one student costs $12 billion per year in just teacher salaries.

Some relief will be coming as a result of the recent one penny sales tax increase. Palm Beach County Schools will get half of the $2.7 billion the tax increase is expected to generate over the course of 10 years

Financial relief can also be coming through school impact fees. These impact fees are only required for residential development and the fees vary by housing type based on pupil generation – the more students coming from a housing type, the higher the fee.

Impact fees are based on the per student cost to construct school buildings and other infrastructure.  Ongoing expenses like teacher salaries are not factored into the fee.

We have learned from our Palm Beach County School Board that it takes 2 ½ years and millions of dollars to construct a new high school, one which will support only 1200 students.

Plans are in the works for elementary school improvements, but currently there are no plans for any such construction of a new high school in Boca Raton.

Poor planning is preferable to no planning in this case. We can do our part by electing council members who will be diligent as far as overseeing our ‘Schools on Steroids’.

March elections are coming and parents should take note.

Previous articleThe BocaWatch End of the Year Wrap up of 2017.
Next articleThe Importance of Parental Involvement in Education
Katie's family moved to Boca Raton in 1970 where she later attended Palm Beach Community College and FAU. Katie is the Founder of HaitianArt.com, a Boca Raton company which began in 1989 as a small art studio. Works by Haiti’s artists soon became part of a revolving exhibit at City Hall as well as the Boca Raton Library and Community Center. The gallery later moved to Delray Beach and broadened its base to include works by Eastern Cuban artists and Florida Highwaymen. Today her focus is on art consulting and internet art sales. She is on the board of the A.C.T.I.O.N. Foundation, a non-profit organization whose goal is to foster harmony between the Caribbean community and the United States, and currently serves as the Vice President of the Riviera Civic Association.

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is traced to developers lobbying the state legislators to avoid paying true and real infrastructure costs for their developments. Now, they just pay their fair share and the county never uses the money for infrastructure needs of that development.

    Just curious, where exactly in Boca Raton would the county build a high school? It’s not like there’s any land. How about the Wildflower site? That’s available land in Boca Raton. And, don’t say Sugar Sand. That’s a park and people need their green space especially since they already paid for it. The reason issue here is that Boca Raton is allowing so many apartments and townhomes in north Boca Raton. They should have never allowed so much density there.

  2. WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE FOR VOTERS TO SEE WHAT IS GOING ON WITH SOME OF OUR CITY COUNCIL?

    Please watch the video interview of Chris Scarpa in todays Boca Watch. Your Mayor and Robert Weinroth, as you will soon learn, are being financed by the development crowd. That is why, though we have good schools, they are way over crowded. The Mayor and Robert Weinroth are there to please the developers not you the tax paying public. So, they don’t demand the amount of necessary fees nor do they keep their collective eye on your children and overcrowded schools. If you can’t see this I pity what will become of Boca Raton. As you will hear if you watch the video, Mayor Haynie stated “Schools are not our responsibility, it us up to the School Board.” This is an outright failure and dereliction of duty on the part of the Mayor. The public elected her and the Council to represent us in all areas and they have and continue to fail because they are being PAID IN FACT, as in the Mayor having a business relationship with the largest land holder in the City and THE FACT Robert Weinroth has put nothing of his own money in his reelection, has received over $100,000 in contributions from developers and those supporting the development crowd all the way to Tallahassee. FOLKS, YOU WILL GET WHAT YOU VOTE FOR.

  3. Kids need to be relocated. Every building, by law, has an occupancy rate. This overcrowding is dangerous and irresponsible, not to mention, illegal.

  4. An interesting misdirection. Criticism needs to be levelled at the PBC School board, bloated bureaucrats, wasted tax dollars and other matters. The City nor City Council have any control over what PBC school board does. Almost 50% of our taxes go to schools and it still seems not to be enough. Development is what pays most of the taxes and has NOTHING to do with overcrowding. Poor planning by the school board does. Even the increased sales tax is not enough and won’t be used for capital improvements but for deferred maintenance because the most important thing for them are administrative salaries. Fact is our taxes are going elsewhere just as we pay for roads in Jupiter. We are a donor City and neither BocaWatch nor the City has properly lobbied to get our fair share. Even worse is your tax dollars are paying to educate thousands and thousands of illegal aliens–with no repercussions. The more A rated schools we have the more people are attracted here. So are we to punish US Citizen property owners for this? I don’t think so. Will development stop in Delray which also grows the student population? I don’t think so. The never ending quest to invent things to stop development is misguided here. The real key is to get as much quality development as possible and a fair share of our taxes. And there is plenty of land to build schools in Boca. The City just to needs to let go of it. The fees sought in SCAD letters is unconstitutional and triple dipping on Boca taxpayers and property owners. Instad of buying golf course for $24MM or building parks (Wildflower) no one will use except the homeless perhaps our priorities should shift.

  5. Caring about schools would require taking a long term view – but developers only think in terms of the short run – build; take the money; run. City council members, with the exception of Jeremy Rodgers, are career politicians and they only care about what will ingratiate them to the donor class and in turn further their personal political ambitions. If you think that they do this out of altruism – then you better think again.

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