When Palm Beach County’s newest high school opens in the fall of 2023, it will be the first in the county to be named after a Hispanic community leader.
School board officials voted to name the school Dr. Joaquín García – a name that honors one of the founders of the Hispanic Education Coalition, who died last December.
“This is an emotional day for many of us. Joaquín was a mentor to me, a friend. I know I wouldn’t be here if not for the hard work he did for decades to make it possible for a Hispanic individual/ Latinos to even run for school board,” said board member Alexandria Ayala.
More than 30 people attended the meeting and at least a dozen spoke in favor of the new name.
Wearing white shirts and T-shirts, they shared their personal love and professional inspiration for García, who wanted to improve education by investing in scholarship programs, advocating for dual language learning and supporting causes that make schools more accepting of both Hispanic and LGBTQ+ students.
Mayors and vice mayors from Belle Glade, Pahokee and South Bay were joined by Greenacres council member Susy Diaz to voice their support.
“As a native of Florida and Palm Beach County, I can tell you it’s way beyond time that we look to honor a Hispanic (person) with the name of a school,” Diaz said.
Diaz added that the communities that will feed the new high school, such as Palm Springs and Greenacres, are majority-Hispanic communities.
And members of the public pointed out why representation will be important for Hispanic students, who make up 37% of the district’s total population.
“It’s history in the making,” Carmen García told the board. “I just pray that every single one of you understands how important this is to our Hispanic community, but every kid that has an opportunity to see that someone who looks like them or has a name that they can relate to. to see that there is an opportunity for them.”
García was a Cuban-born physician and businessman who was a founding member of the Hispanic Education Coalition and co-owner of the El Cid Animal Clinic in West Palm Beach.
He was also involved with the Homeless Coalition of Palm Beach County, the Compass Community Center and the International AIDS Education Foundation. Garcia was a strong supporter of dual language programs in the school district.
District leaders said Garcia often said he had no biological children, but that he considered the roughly 200,000 students in the Palm Beach County School District “his children and his responsibility.”
He died in November 2021 and was honored with a proclamation by the school board a month later.
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About Palm Beach County’s new high school
The county’s 24th district high school will have space for 2,600 students.
School board members and parents hope it will ease overcrowding at schools across the mid-county.
The project, which was referred to by the district as “OOO” before being named, is the first new high school to be built since 2005, when Seminole Ridge High was completed near Westlake.
The high school principal, two prospective students, community members, a representative from the Palm Beach County Historical Society and superintendent of instruction Karen Whetsell were on the school’s naming committee.
They ranked more than 50 suggestions and narrowed down the final three names to Park Ridge, Western Wave and Dr. Joaquín García High School.
Who will attend the new Lake Worth Area High School?
The next step is determining the boundaries that will describe which students will attend the new school, located between Palm Beach Central and Park Vista high schools and west of Florida’s Turnpike.
Nine high schools need overcrowding relief after reporting enrollment exceeding their building capacity this year: Dreyfoos School of the Arts and Boca Raton, Forest Hill, John I. Leonard, Olympic Heights, Palm Beach Central, Park Vista , Santaluces and Spanish River High Schools.
While geography makes it difficult for the new high school to address the crowd on all those campuses, helping any of those high schools will require complicated rewriting of boundaries.
The school will be filled from surrounding neighborhoods, and vacancies created at other high schools will then be filled by moving those boundaries and potentially displacing students.
District officials will determine the boundaries for the new school through a series of public boundary committee meetings. Last year, public meetings began in December for Blue Lake Elementary School in Boca Raton, which opened in August.
Dates for those meetings have not yet been set, but interested parents can check the district’s Student Enrollment and Demographics website for updates.
Katherine Kokal is an education reporter for The Palm Beach Post. You can contact him at [email protected]. Help support our work, subscribe today!