(WSVN) - After a few weeks of town hall meetings with the community, the school district has decided to take school closures out of their proposal at this time, but changes are still on the agenda.

Many parents and students were relieved after a town hall with Broward County Public School officials on Thursday.

School district officials have been holding town halls to receive feedback for a few weeks, discussing closing or reconfiguring several schools to improve efficiency in the district.

Most parents, teachers and students spoke out against the closures, but Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Howard Hepburn said he has listened.

“We got a lot of feedback from the community, feedback that we will take back into consideration as we revise our consideration before our recommendations are presented to the school board,” he said.

That feedback is saving schools that had been on the chopping block. Oakridge Elementary in Hollywood and Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach were both threatened with closure.

These schools’ communities turned out in force at town halls.

“I’ve been at Oakridge for two years, and this is not an ‘A’ school, it is my second home and family,” said a student.

“We shouldn’t close Olsen, for the sake of the kids at Dania Elementary, for the sake of the kids that come from Hollywood,” said a man.

A third school, Broward Estates Elementary in Lauderhill, was also on the proposed closure list, but after Friday’s town hall, Hepburn announced he’s revised his recommendations and will not present school closures to the school board.

With increased competition from private and charter schools, as well as some parents opting to homeschool, district officials had some tough decisions to make to address a shrinking student body.

Low enrollment, low grades and the age of buildings are all factors in a school being proposed for closure, but parents had pointed questions about why two of the three schools were in Southeast Broward.

Reconfiguring grade levels and shifting away from Montessori models at other school are still at this point part of the plan. It’s all part of the district’s Redefining Our Schools project, but it now looks as if the district will redefine how they will move forward.

The superintendent said in a statement on Friday it is still assessing other parts of the plan, such as grade and program reconfigurations, as well as exploring new partnerships.

Following community input, Superintendent Hepburn has revised his considerations for the Board on redefining BCPS. School closures are no longer proposed at this stage. Instead, he will recommend grade and program reconfigurations, explore partnerships, and sell property to regain students and bolster capital reserves. He will continue assessing BCPS with community feedback to shape the next phase of redefining our schools.

John J. Sullivan
Chief Communications and Legislative Affairs Officer

Broward School Board member Dr. Allen Zeman hosted Thursday’s town hall before the decision had been announced.

“It’s really opened up our eyes to some of the things that were not tracking. There’s some issues with demographic projections, there’s some issues with special needs children, there’s some issues with special programs,” said Zeman. “We’re got to make sure that the data that we have fully supports the decisions that we need to make.”

Now the school board will discuss the superintendent’s recommendations at a workshop scheduled for Tuesday at Plantation High School. A final decision will likely not come until sometime during the summer.

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