School Board Votes To Shutter Three Schools

By  //  February 13, 2013

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Sea Park To Remain Open

BREVARD COUNTY • VIERA, FLORIDA – The final school bell will ring in May for two elementary schools and a middle school, but a fourth elementary school won a last-minute reprieve and will remain open following Tuesday night’s meeting in Viera of the Brevard County School Board.

The Brevard County School Board voted Tuesday night to close three schools during a meeting tonight in Viera. (Image by Ed Pierce)

After three months of community forums, public hearings and heated discussion, school board members voted Tuesday to shutter Gardendale Elementary Magnet School on Merritt Island, South Lake Elementary School in Titusville and Clearlake Middle School in Cocoa in the face of a looming $30 million budget shortfall.

Votes for closing Gardendale and South Lake were 3-2, with board members Amy Kneesey and Dr. Michael Krupp opposed and Andy Zeigler, Dr. Barbara Murray and Karen Henderson voting in favor of closing them.

A 4-1 vote to close Clearlake saw Ziegler, Murray and Henderson joined by Krupp in favor of the measure, with Kneesey casting the lone opposition vote.

Students attending the closing schools will now have to attend others nearby as the board also voted to accept boundary proposals put forward by Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli.

Brevard school board member Amy Kneesey voted to keep all four schools proposed for closing open . (Image courtesy Brevard Public Schools)

New Jr./Sr. High School

The board voted to move students attending Clearlake Middle School to Cocoa High School and convert it to a junior and senior high school in time for the 2013-2014 school year.

Sea Park Elementary School will not be closing as board members Kneesey, Krupp and Ziegler voted to keep the school open. Board chairwoman Dr. Barbara Murray and board member Karen Henderson voted to close Sea Park.

Following the meeting, Ziegler said the three-month process leading up to the vote was extremely nerve-wracking.

“It was a tremendous amount of stress,” Ziegler said. “I tried to look at every possible angle and listen to everyone who had an opinion about the subject in an effort to make a sound decision.”

Ziegler said he believes the experience has made him a better school board member.

“I’ve become a lot more tolerant of people’s emotions when they disagree with what I believe,” he said. “I’m more understanding and have more sympathy for the situation of others as a result of hearing other viewpoints.”

Dan Bennett of the Brevard Federation of Teachers urged the Brevard County School Board to accept community help and to vote to keep schools proposed for closure open. (Image by Ed Pierce)

Opposed to closings

Many showed up Tuesday night to speak to the board a final time and try to persuade them to keep all the schools open.

However, public discussion before the board about the closings ended with a final public hearing three weeks ago. Titusville mayor Jim Tulley and Brevard County Commissioner Chuck Nelson attended the meeting, but were not allowed to address the board about closing schools.

“I think it’s incredibly unfortunate and the constant changing of the rules is frustrating to all including myself,” said Misty Belford of Titusville, who is a member of a group called North Area Parents Leaders.

“The bottom line is we have a lot of work to do to repair the public’s perception of this board,” Belford said. “We’re moving in the wrong direction.”

Dan Bennett of the Brevard Federation of Teachers told the board before the vote that other solutions could be found if given time.

“The distrust the community has expressed is what you as a board has created,” Bennett said. “I urge you to accept the community’s help.”

In voting to close all four schools, board member Henderson said her decision was reached upon careful study.

“I am basing my decisions on data and meetings with parents on both sides of this issue,” she said.

The board also voted to eliminate corridor busing of students attending schools of choice for 2013-2014 at this time except those going to academies and dual-enrollment classes at Brevard Community College.

The board tabled a measure to implement fee-based corridor busing until March 12.