By: Lisa J. HuriashContact ReporterSun Sentinel
Steel rods to keep cars from ramming in. Classrooms fortified with bullet-resistant doors and glass.
Surveillance cameras monitored in real-time. And even a license plate reader to check cars driving in.
These are just some of the features of Somerset Academy Parkland, a proposed school that could become Florida’s most advanced in terms of security, said Michael Moskowitz, the school’s attorney. The two-story charter school would open in Parkland, a few miles from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, where 17 people died in a mass shooting on Feb. 14. Somerset would serve 1,280 students in grades K-8.
“We believe it’s essential to any school constructed today — especially in Parkland,” Moskowitz said.
School officials met Thursday night with the city’s Planning & Zoning Board to discuss the plan, which has been revised to up security.
The meeting, which ran for hours and spilled into early Friday morning, drew a vocal group of neighbors opposed to the school, citing traffic and safety concerns, among other things. Somerset officials’ presentation included a traffic engineer who said the school would stagger the schedule to ease traffic and that the city could evaluate it annually.
The board approved the plan, and if the City Commission next approves it, the school could be open by August 2019, Moskowitz said.
The school would have a 6-foot fence around the property, as well as an 8-foot non-scalable fence surrounding the school building. Bollards, or steel pipes, would prevent a car from driving into the school. Surveillance cameras would be monitored live with a seven-day loop, Moskowitz said.
The lobby would have bullet-resistant glass and somebody would check ID. After guests are buzzed in, they’d pass through two bullet-resistant doors before they have access to classrooms. Classrooms, in addition to having bullet-resistant doors and glass, would remain locked. The school also would have two uniformed police officers.
Somerset Charter School first submitted an application to the city in 2014 to create The Somerset Academy at Parkland Charter School for grades K-12. In 2016, Debuys Property Investment Group sold the 10.5-acre parcel at the northwest corner of University Drive and Hillsboro Boulevard for $5 million to Parkland School Property LLC. Then last winter, Somerset Academy, which operates more than 60 schools in Florida, Texas, Nevada and Washington, D.C., proposed a two-story school of nearly 98,000 square feet for grades kindergarten through eighth.
The school would be one more choice for students in the city: Most years, Parkland “A”-graded schools have had little to no extra seats for students who live outside the city but seek reassignment there.
“It offers Parkland a public school of choice in a growing community where the middle school is already overcrowded, the elementary schools in the next couple years will be overcrowded” and the School Board has no plans “to build new schools in the near future,” he said.
Staff writer Juan Ortega contributed to this report.
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