Thursday, November 17, 2011

Brevard Beachside Residents Rally To Save Their Schools

Residents in both Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach have rallied together in a grass roots effort to stop the proposed conversion of Roosevelt Elementary School into a middle school and the closure of Sea Park Elementary School.

Two separate groups: 'Save Roosevelt Elementary' and 'Save Sea Park Elementary' have taken their causes to the web via Facebook and a website.

The proposed Brevard County School Staff recommendations would affect all of the beachside K-12 schools from Satellite Beach running north to Cape Canaveral. 

The long and narrow geography of the barrier island cities, with Patrick Air Force Base right in the middle, would force a long bus ride or commute if children of either city had to attend school in the other city.

Adding to the geographical quandary is that Freedom 7 School of International Studies, a school of choice, is located in South Cocoa Beach.

30 Years Of Change

Freedom 7 Elementary, which originally was Cocoa Beach Elementary and renamed after Alan Shepard's first U.S. manned flight into space aboard the Freedom 7 spacecraft, had been closed in 1982 because the Apollo-era space workers were not being replaced quickly enough with young families to support keeping the then un-airconditioned school open.

Elementary school children in Cocoa Beach were sent to Theodore Roosevelt Middle School which became a K-8 school through the 1990's, and later changed to a K-6 elementary school when Cocoa Beach High became a Junior/Senior High School.

After being a senior citizens center for nearly three decades, Freedom 7 re-opened as Freedom 7 School of International Studies in 2005 just when property values (and resulting tax revenues) were artificially high.


Threat To Beachside Businesses and Real Estate Values:

Central Brevard beachside communities have been in a steady decline for the last twenty years.  The first blow came in the early 1990s when government offices and the main courthouse were moved just west of I-95 in Viera from north Rockledge.

In any community, the location of a courthouse and government offices act as a magnet for the local economy.  Lawyers and other professionals who have to go to the courthouse and government offices due to their occupation who would have liked to live beachside suddenly find that the commute from Cocoa Beach via State Roads 520 and 404 is too time consuming and opt for the neighboring communities that sprouted around Viera.

Doctors, dentists, and other professionals who would have preferred to live beachside then move their practices to Viera - chasing the first migration of professionals.  

The process continues to snowball until ultimately new schools, stores, restaurants, and a new hospital are built to service the new professional community.  

The new schools, stores, restaurants, and hospital then become an economic magnet of their own, further advancing the pull of young professional families from beachside communities.

The only factor that had kept the beachside communities afloat with young professional families despite these strong economic magnets was the shuttle program and Air Force-side launches.  

And of course, the shuttle program is now over, with no other immediate space program in place.

The result to beachside communities is an aging population which no longer has the school-age population that it once had, resulting in unfavorable school zonings that will ultimately discourage even more young professional families from moving beachside.

Beachside businesses are already struggling to stay afloat as one business closes down after another due to the lack of young professional families (the most consumer-driven demographic during a person's life-cycle.)  

The only viable business model that would remain beachside would be to cater to Orlando day-trippers.

The final nail in the coffin then becomes that young professional families do not want to move to beachside because of the lack of quality education, healthcare, shopping and dining (because they all closed down).

Current parents of beachside elementary school-aged children, who typically have owned their home for less than seven years, would find themselves underwater as already declining property values are accelerated by school zoning changes into undesirable street addresses.

Their neighbors, whether parents or not, would also see their home values plummet as the increase of potential walk-away foreclosures in their neighborhoods skyrocket.