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Broward could close three schools. Find scheduled town hall events to voice your opinion

FILE - Desks are arranged in a classroom at an elementary school in Nesquehoning, Pa., March 11, 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic that shuttered classrooms set back learning in some U.S. school systems by more than a year, with children in high-poverty areas affected the most, according to a district-by-district analysis of test scores shared exclusively with The Associated Press. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
Matt Slocum
There are more than 50,000 empty seats across BCPS, the result of years of eroding support for traditional public schools, as families choose alternatives for their children and as state regulators divert more public funding to charter, private and homeschool options. (ABOVE) Desks arranged in a classroom at a Pennsylvania elementary school.

What will it take to bring more students back to Broward County Public Schools? That’s the question the district is asking the community to help answer.

There are more than 50,000 empty seats across BCPS, the result of years of eroding support for traditional public schools, as families choose alternatives for their children and as state regulators divert more public funding to charter, private and homeschool options.

What to do about the worsening enrollment crisis is one of the biggest challenges the district has faced in recent years, forcing BPCS officials to confront a harsh reality: that the district has about 40 more schools than it strictly needs.

READ MORE: Broward officials have a lot of opinions on school consolidation. Here's five takeaways

As part of the Redefining Our Schools initiative, Superintendent Howard Hepburn has pitched closing three schools and making major changes to dozens more. That would include converting some K-5 schools into K-8 schools, redrawing school boundaries, and expanding choice programs that would allow families living outside a school’s traditional boundaries to apply for a spot.

Under the most recent proposal, the schools identified for potential closure are:

  • Broward Estates Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale
  • Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach
  • Oakridge Elementary School in Hollywood

In a plan titled the Superintendent’s Considerations, the slate of potential changes are meant to right-size the district — to more effectively use BCPS’s dwindling resources; to respond to program requests made by parents; to replicate innovative models; and to compete with the charter and private schools that are pulling thousands of students out of traditional classrooms.
South Region Superintendent Alan Strauss gave the example of a cluster of campuses in the county's southeast, where there’s a higher concentration of charter schools pulling students out of the district. Strauss noted there are 330 middle school-aged students who are zoned for Olsen Middle School, but only a fraction of them actually attend it.

“Out of those 330, only 75 of those students opt to go to Olsen Middle School, with the remainder pretty much going to the surrounding charter schools,” Strauss said. “Two blocks away from Hollywood Central [Elementary] sits a K-8 charter school.”

In drafting the proposals for school closures and program changes, district staff considered a number of factors, including school enrollment, school grades, the capacity of neighboring schools, and the state of campus facilities.

“It’s an opportunity for us to compete better by offering more innovative programs,” said Superintendent Howard Hepburn. “Really listen to the community about what their needs are. Change grade configurations. Some full choice options. Just to recapture our market share. Because when we have kids in our buildings, it equals additional funding.”

The district has also floated a more drastic plan that’s meant to match the number of seats to the number of schools in the district. Under the proposal titled the Total District Realignment, the cuts needed to reduce the district's footprint to a 1:1 seat to student ratio would mean closing the equivalent of 42 schools across the county. That’s based on a district-wide average of the number of empty seats per school.

The total district realignment plan would also entail eliminating all magnet programs and school choice assignments.

“There’s some upside and some downside to this option,” Hepburn said. “We will be at high capacity in all of our schools with this option. Also, being fiscally stable or fiscally responsible, with the opportunity to regain probably tens of millions of dollars with that option. But the drawback also is we’re limiting our choice opportunities for our students.”

The proposals are still under development and district staff are actively seeking community input to shape them, including by hosting a series of upcoming town halls May 6 - 9.

Hepburn will present an updated proposal to the Broward County School Board during a board workshop on May 14. A final vote by the board is slated for June 18.


Broward County is hosting a series of town halls on May 6 - 9, to get community input on the Redefining Our Schools initiative.

The meetings are being held across the district, to give students, parents, educators and residents the chance to hear directly from BCPS officials and to share their perspectives.

The events will be livestreamed here. More information is available on the district’s website.

Redefining Our Schools town halls are scheduled for:

Monday May 6, 2024 at 6 pm
Fort Lauderdale High School
1600 N.E. Fourth Ave.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33305

Tuesday May 7, 2024 at 6 pm
Charles W. Flanagan High School
12800 Taft St.
Pembroke Pines, FL 33028

Wednesday May 8, 2024 at 6 pm
Western High School
1200 S.W. 136 Ave.
Davie, FL 33325

Thursday May 9, 2024 at 6 pm
Deerfield Beach High School
910 Buck Pride Way
Deerfield Beach, FL 33441

Kate Payne is WLRN's Education Reporter. Reach her at kpayne@wlrnnews.org
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