Tuesday, May 21

New Palm Beach County high school could be coming to Riviera Beach

In a few years, students in Riviera Beach could have a high school to call their own. The Palm Beach County School Board appears poised to move forward with a long talked about project, as the city does not have its own comprehensive high school within the city limits.

Five school board members appear to support the plan to build the high school with two board members against.

Under the favored proposal, the current Inlet Grove High School campus would be demolished to make way for the new high school. Inlet Grove is a charter school but operates on Palm Beach County School District property. Inlet Grove would move to Lincoln Elementary School, where renovations and construction would be needed to create a campus appropriate for high schoolers and the associated programming. Students at Lincoln Elementary would then be divided among the other area Riviera Beach elementary schools.

“I think it would be great if the children of our community can have a beautiful high school to go to,” said Riviera Beach mom Jenice Stallings, whose son is headed to high school next year. “Suncoast is a magnet school and not all students are permitted to go to that school, so if there was another option locally for those students, it would be a great option for them.”

Mom Desiree Reavis shared the same sentiment of the possibility of a new high school.

“A feeling of community where the kids aren’t divided and they can grow up together and they can play sports together and do community events together and just more synergy,” Reavis said.

Right now, most Riviera Beach high school students go to William T. Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Palm Beach Gardens High School and Palm Beach Lakes High School in West Palm Beach. While these schools are not considered overcrowded, according to district records, supporters said these students deserve a high school to call their own.

School Board member Edwin Ferguson, who represents the area, has been leading the charge.

“It’s one thing to choose to go to a school outside your city limits, it’s another thing to have to. This is the only city of its size in the county where effectively all of the children are required to go to school outside their city,” he said. “It would be a huge feather in the cap of the community in terms of community building having an anchor site for various things, not just athletics, but the arts and things of that nature.”

The high school could be ready in August 2030, with Inlet Grove set on its new campus in 2028. However, some board members question, why now?

“This is about being financially responsible and academically responsible,” school board member Alexandria Ayala said during Wednesday’s meeting, “and none of the presentations that have been brought forward to me prove that approving this would accomplish either of those two goals.”

Riviera Beach city leaders are pledging community and financial support. Riviera Beach City Manager Jonathan Evans spoke to school board members during their meeting Wednesday and told them the city is asking voters to approve $55 million bonds for recreational investments at the March 19 election. He said $45 million of that is expected to be spent in collaboration with the school district, if they can form an agreement for developing an athletic facility at the new school site.

The high school alone has a $150 million price tag. The district said the funding would not be an issue.

“We’re going to show anyone who has doubts about the future viability of this Riviera Beach High School,” Ferguson said. “Anyone who has those doubts we will put them to rest in short fashion.”

He said building this school is “righting a wrong,” after the school was promised to the community many years ago. He also said the closure of Lincoln Elementary would be part of the process.

“They are hard decisions that have to be made but it’s a necessary decision,” Ferguson said. “We have additional seats at West Riviera, at Bethune and at Washington to absorb the current student population.”

The school board still needs to vote on making the plan a reality, which is expected to happen at a board meeting before the end of the school year.

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