Royal Palm OKs new charter school

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. - Another charter school is coming to Royal Palm Beach, helping ease waiting lists at other area charter schools.

That's the village council's hope, anyway.

Council members voted unanimously this month to approve site plan and special-exception uses so that Charter Schools USA can offer classes from kindergarten through eighth grade in the vacant Albertsons grocery store at the northwest corner of Southern and Crestwood boulevards.

"This is something that's needed out here," said Loxahatchee Groves resident Frank Schiola, who lives a few blocks from the planned school. His daughter is on a wait list to attend Western Academy Charter School.

The approval, which garnered support from several dozen residents and businesses, didn't come without concerns, though. Namely: traffic at the site's northeast entry on Crestwood Boulevard.

"That's an unsafe intersection," Councilman Fred Pinto said. "I don't want to wait for somebody to get killed."

Palm Beach County engineers said the school's plan meets traffic requirements, and a signal isn't warranted.

But two months into the school year, when pick-up and drop-off patterns are established, Charter Schools USA will be required to complete a study on whether the light is needed. If the school isn't fully enrolled at that time, a second study will be required when it is. Other village requirements call for the school to pay for a traffic policeman at the Crestwood intersection and to stagger school times if cars stack up on right of ways during drop off and pick up.

Renaissance Charter School at Palms West is expected to have 1,145 students and 56 staff members. The school would be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., with preschool care from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and after-school care from 2:30 to 6 p.m.

Councilwoman Martha Webster said she was confident the school had addressed traffic issues.

"We do not have enough charter schools and schools of choice," Webster said.

During the March 1 vote, none of the council members doubted the quality of education Charter Schools USA's quality.

"This group has a proven track record," Vice Mayor Richard Valuntas said.