At its Tuesday meeting, the Broward County School Board voted to approve repairs to two buildings at Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park and demolish the building whose ceiling collapsed in March.
However, the board could not come to an agreement on a request to spend $8.8 million on building portables on campus while the construction is being done. The discussion will continue at a Thursday afternoon meeting.
“I implored the board to reconsider and invest in the portable campus fully at Rickards so that grade levels would not be split up. I was in the minority,” Sarah Leonardi, a school board member who represents the district including Oakland Park, wrote in a message sent out by the city.
During the meeting, the board approved a $990,250 funding request to renovate Buildings 2 and 5 “with life safety systems to regain occupancy.” The second approved request was to demolish and replace Building 1 and seek out a design and building firm to take on the project. In March, the ceiling of the building’s media center collapsed. Luckily it was unoccupied and no one was seriously injured.
Ever since, students have been attending school at Broward College or virtual school. At a community meeting with parents in June, district staff explained that as of now, virtual school is not an option for the upcoming school year.
Different proposals were presented to parents, including having eighth-graders go to school at Northeast High School while sixth and seventh graders are split up at neighboring middle schools, sending all children to Pines Middle School, or spending the $8.8 million to build portables to be used for the next two to three years while construction is done on campus. However, if approved, the portables would not be completed until after Winter Break, so students would still need to be divided up around the county for the first half of the school year.
Leonardi also noted in a separate email that separating the students would make it difficult for afterschool activities and sports to continue, as well as “logistical challenges for families and faculty.”