Public Hearing Explores School Closings Tonight In Viera

By  //  December 11, 2012

FInal Vote Expected In January

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – Don’t expect a room filled with happy people at tonight’s meeting of the Brevard County School Board in Viera.

The Brevard County School Board will conduct a public hearing about a proposal to close four schools during a meeting tonight in Viera. (Image by Ed Pierce)

The board will meet for an action agenda regarding possible school closures and then listen to what the public has to think about the subject in a public hearing.

On Nov. 20, Brevard Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli formally recommended the closure of three elementary schools — Merritt Island’s Gardendale, Satellite Beach’s Sea Park and Titusville’s South Lake — and Clearlake Middle School to the school board.

The board will weigh those proposals tonight and listen to a new recommendation from a parents group to close Pinewood Elementary in Mims instead of South Lake.

In November, Binggeli cited declining enrollment and dwindling capital revenue as the reasons these particular schools need to be shuttered.

“Since the 2009-2010 school year enrollment has declined and the possibility of closing schools has existed,” Binggeli said. “We are one of 12 localities in Florida without a sales surtax. Our capital revenue has dropped 65 percent.”

Binggeli said when voters rejected a half-cent sales tax referendum during the general election last month the schools immediately explored ways to cut costs.

Dr. Brian T. Binggeli is superintendent of Brevard Public Schools. (Image courtesy of Brevard Public Schools)

Under a reduction plan formulated by the Brevard Public Schools director of facilities, Dane Theodore, four schools were chosen to close at the end of the current school year.

Theodore said he carefully studied current school capacity district-wide, current enrollments and attendance boundaries before arriving at a decision that closing Gardendale, Sea Park, South Lake and Clearlake could be accomplished with a minimum of hardship for students and parents.

He said school boundaries would be redrawn and that students could attend other nearby schools, helping to boost the capacity of those other schools making it more cost-effective for the district.

Another standing room only crowd is expected for tonight’s meeting to plead with the Brevard County School Board to keep the schools open.

School board member Amy  Kneesey said she believes useful information will be presented by the public at tonight’s meeting.

“I am open-minded at this point and will listen to everything that is presented to us, Kneesey said. “Nothing is final until a decision is made by the entire board in January.”

Following tonight’s public hearing and meeting, the board will formally vote on Bingelli’s school closure proposal on Jan. 22.