Delray Beach Schools Poised For Changes, New Group Proposes Preserving Part Of Old Carver High

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By: Marisa Herman Associate editor

Carver High School graduate Paula Newman-Rocker learned that her alma mater was slated for demolition during a summer reunion.

That news didn’t sit well with her or her former classmates who gathered for a weekend of reminiscing last June.

“There were gasps,” she said. “Audible gasps. We decided that evening we have to do something about this.”

Plans to raze the segregated Delray public school at 301 SW 14th Ave., which closed in 1970, is the recommended direction for the location as part of the 1-cent sales tax.

Palm Beach County School Board has allocated $10 million to the site, which is now known as the Delray Full Service Center. It is scheduled for demolition because of the decrepit condition of the old buildings.

But those old buildings are where graduates like Rocker and Brenda Neal Edwards spent time with their friends making memories. And they do not want to see them disappear.

So the two teamed up with other classmates to create the Carver High School Historical Preservation Society. Their goal: to save two buildings on the 22 acre campus, building No. 1 and No. 12. Those buildings would be used for vocational and technical classes and for the community to use.

Building 1 is a two-story classroom building and Building 12 is the former cafeteria and auditorium. Rocker said the original “cafetorium” sign still hangs above the entrance.

“This was our hub,” she said. “We are trying to preserve our history.”

Plans also include adding athletic fields for Village Academy students to use, locker rooms, public restrooms and add more parking for shared use between the schools. They propose selling part of the site to a private developer for residential units. That way the property would generate money first at the sale and then on a recurring basis through the tax rolls.

“We know it is going to cost money,” she said. “But we need to preserve our heritage. Our children need to be proud of their heritage.”

The school was moved to its current location in 1958. It shuttered in 1970 when it was integrated with Seacrest High School to form a new, integrated school, Atlantic Community High School.

The school has ties to historic African-American figures Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver. When they were at Tuskegee, Ala., Rocker said they selected Solomon Spady to go down to Delray Beach to start a school.

Spady was a teacher and principal for decades in Delray. His namesake can be found at Spady Elementary and Spady Cultural Heritage Museum.

Rocker said she has met with the school board to discuss the group’s plans and is working to meet with city officials. She has sent a letter to the school board asking for support in designating the buildings as historic.

She said their efforts are a work in progress and the group is fighting to see those two buildings preserved.

Old Carver isn’t the only school poised for a makeover. Delray schools will be receiving $42.2 million from the sales tax.

Delray’s Education Board recently presented phase one of a six phase education master plan to commissioners. The group is looking at the most effective and efficient way to spend the funds generated from the penny sales tax fund.

Its goals include increasing graduation rates and grade level reading. The average grade of all of the city’s schools is a C minus.

Delray is struggling with topics like grade level reading and under-enrollment in some of its schools like Carver Middle, the board said.

Ideas from the board include expediting a long-awaited plan to expand Plumosa into K-8, demolish the former Plumosa location, change Carver Middle into a K-8 model or into a smaller school, add more vocational programs to Village Academy and add adult education back to the old Carver site.

After the group completes phase one, which is the exploratory phase, it will move not engaging a consultant, meeting with the community, creating an education master plan, requesting approval for the plan and then implementing the plan.