Updated: Oct 7
HALLANDALE BEACH - The month of April has flown by. Hallandale Beach is gradually easing into what some call the “the lazy days of summer.” Traffic has slowed down. Students are busy taking the myriad of state mandated tests. Our high school seniors are celebrating prom night, getting ready to graduate and many are already planning for college. The end of this school year will mark a change for Hallandale Beach’s elementary and middle school students. In August, our students will be attending school at the new Hallandale Beach K-8 campus. Over the past years, I have been a strong supporter of our public schools here in our City. I have been working side by side with my colleagues, Vice Mayor Bill Julian, Commissioner Anthony Sanders and our Education Advisory Board that is chaired by Jackie Cespedes to ensure that our students receive the resources they need from our school board and grant funding support from the City to fill in the gaps. Eastern schools have notoriously been underserved when it comes to facilities and funding. At one time, they were even going to close Hallandale High. A group of likeminded parents rose up to fight and keep it in our City. The middle school was also closed and replaced by McNichol. The elementary was overcrowded and became the only year round school in Broward. Before I was elected, there was a large lawsuit brought about regarding the neglect of the buildings in the eastern communities. When I was first elected, it was apparent that the schools needed championing not just by parents but by the commission and all of the stakeholders to make sure that the commitments in the lawsuit were executed. The EAB also joined with the commission and parents to make sure the HHS received much needed repairs. The High School should have been replaced since it was well over its useful life, but that was just when they were slashing budgets and the push for charters began, it was disgraceful. Bathrooms with broken walls and sinks that were simply blocked off. Lockers and weight rooms with broken down equipment, rusted metal, falling ceilings. No science labs, no technology and many other issues. The EAB and Minority Report Group succeeded in getting this done. When I first was elected, the school board was planning to add classroom space to the old elementary building. The school was overcrowded. This would mean closing streets and buying out some residential homes. I did some research and found the school board owned property in the SW that was vacant and adjacent to the Hallandale Adult Community Center baseball fields. Our children deserved a new school. I reached out to the PTA’s on a new school concept and requested that the City establish an Education Advisory. In partnership, we set out to make sure that our students received a brand new school. The next goal was to get a middle school back. Between School Board Member Carol Andrews, who has since passed, and Ann Murray this goal was accomplished and Gulfstream Middle School was opened where the old elementary school building sat empty. Once again, not ideal but our children could walk to school right here in our City and remain progressing in their studies from Kindergarten through Twelfth grade. This provided stability and continuity. The EAB worked long and hard to get this done. The school was opened, but there were no playing fields, no gym and a small cafeteria that also served as the auditorium. Originally, the EAB requested that the Hallandale Beach Adult Center facility be swapped for the middle school. HACC was actually built and used as middle school. The location of the Adult Center was always an issue. The students that attend come from all over the south Broward area. There continued to be many traffic problems and policing issues. Under the leadership of past Chair Barbara Southwick, the EAB worked for over two years trying to get information not only from the school board, but the adult center on student counts, facility layout and programing needs. The final report from the school board did not support the swap. Mark Neckes, a college professor who was on the EAB drafted a minority report that suggested the School Board and school were not transparent with their numbers, reasoning or cost of the swap. It was to say the least very frustrating to us all. In 2014, parents at the middle school decided to revisit the swap. Under the leadership of Chair Jackie Cespedes the EAB rolled up their sleeves again. Last year, the school board tabled the concept for more information. At the time, there were still many unanswered logistical issues, employment concerns and program issues at the Adult Center, they did commit to looking at it again last summer. Over the summer, they solved many of the issues. The Adult Center is moving to Miramar and keeping all of its programming. The middle school will be moving over the summer to the Adult Center location and the new K8 Campus will be created. Our Assistant City Manager Jenifer Frastai has worked side by side with school board staff to work on resolving other infrastructure needs. There will no longer be a year round calendar. The parents did not support this schedule, mainly because if you had children of different ages, it impacted their ability to manage work, child care and family vacation time. The transition has already begun. Principal Robert Pappas from Gulfstream Middle has been selected to be the new principal. He is currently working on facility and budget. Currently, the elementary school serves 1200 plus students from K to 5th grades and Gulfstream has over 400 6th-8th graders. The two buildings on the new campus have permanent capacity of 1100 and 600. So, there is great flexibility to provide room for all of our students. K–4th grades in the fall will be in the south building and 5th–8th graders in the north building. It will be a traditional calendar year. All of the current programs will remain in tact, including the STEM magnetic programs. There has been a commitment to keep all of the current staff and class support staff. We were told in January that there may be some changes to facility maintenance personal, but we will not know until the budget is complete. City staff has and will remain focused on traffic management, security and safety improvements around the school. There have been some hiccups with the summer transition. There will be no summer sessions. I was approached by some teachers and parents on this issue. Our summer camp programs fill up right away. Bluesten Park already has a waiting list and there were some spots at OB Johnson and Foster. I have asked staff to look into working with the school to see if we can partner to provide extra camp programs at our other park locations or at the schools. We are also looking to expand our part time park employee pool, so teachers have been made aware of this opportunity. We publicly recognized Chair Jackie Cespedes, School Board Member Ann Murray, Superintendent Runcie and the entire EAB that never lost sight of the goal of making sure that our students have all of the resources afforded for every student in the district. Our number one issue here and in South Florida is traffic. Over the past year, I have written about this issue and what can or cannot be done by our city to improve congestion. I recently wrote about the addition of the East/West 2nd Ave. extension, possible North/South road where the 14th Avenue Canal to connect to Aventura and the extension of NW 3rd Street to West 8th Avenue are. I am asking for your help. Speak up and support these solutions. Contact me as soon as possible with your support and ideas. We can work together to solve these issues. E-mail me at: Joy@mayorjoycooper.com. Or: firstname.lastname@example.org . Have wonderful Mother's Day!