‘We don’t have any money.’ Broward Superintendent tours schools, and talk of closures ramps up

In the first step toward the consolidation or closure of public schools, Broward schools superintendent Peter Licata went on a road tour Monday to visit campuses.

He’s been tasked by the School District to bring a plan back in June 2024 that would impact five public schools, but there’s no criteria on where in the county they’d be, or whether they’d be a mix of elementary, middle or high schools.

Addressing reporters after his tour, Licata said there would be “tough decisions” coming, but said nothing would happen without community feedback, which will be scheduled after the winter vacation to talk about “some of the schools. We’re not doing anything until we hear from them.”

“We know we have a lot of underenrolled schools,” he said. Closure would be “the last option,” he said. One possibility is to merge schools into grades K-8. Shutting them down completely is also on the table, and the land could be sold for housing.

“We just don’t have the budget anymore to endure a loss of thousands and thousands of kids every year,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard path simply because nobody likes to hear these things. It’s time to change. We don’t have any money. We need to make sure we aren’t writing checks we can’t cash.”

The district lost 3,000 students this year alone, he said.

In June, School Board member Allen Zeman advocated for about 35 closures to start in the 2024-2025 school year and continue gradually over four years. Each closed school, including administrative and operational costs, could save the district as much as $2 million, he said at the time. Closing as many as 40 elementary, middle and high schools would still leave 200 schools in operation.

Schools spokesman John Sullivan said the superintendent has been tasked with coming up with a plan in June 2024 to repurpose at least five schools.

But enrollment is not the only factor, he warned. Multiple schools located close to each other could also be merged into the most new facility, he said. “Just because you are low enrollment doesn’t mean you will be slated for repurposing. (You) could be combined with other schools nearby,” he said.

The earliest school year in which there would be change would be the 2025-2026 year.

The district has been steadily losing students, many to charter schools, “and we don’t have the money to continue to operate as status quo,” Sullivan said. Every lost student costs the district $8,000 per year they’d be in school.

According to public records, among the schools that are underenrolled by more than 600 students are Tamarac Elementary, McNicol Middle in Hollywood and Boyd H. Anderson High in Lauderdale Lakes; the schools short by more than 900 students include Coral Springs Middle and Stranahan High in Fort Lauderdale; and Parkway Middle in Lauderhill is underenrolled by more than 1,000 students.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on X, formerly Twitter, @LisaHuriash

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