Hillcrest charter school starts year in temporary location

Florida Intercultural Academy’s new school building in Hollywood’s Hillcrest community was not ready for students Monday.

Instead, parents were met with permission slips allowing the students to go on a “field trip” to their temporary location at Emerald Hills Country Club — 2 1/2 miles away.

“I am a little uneasy about them being taken to another place," said Ralph Louis, who didn’t let a little rain dampen the first day of school as he walked his 7-year-old daughter Sumaiya under a black and pink umbrella.

He said the construction worried him — the workers were fixing the parking lot, working on the roof and installing equipment — but he was pleased by the school’s organization. Students were ushered from the carpool line straight to the waiting buses.

“I know it will be OK,” Louis said. “Everything is a process.”

In May, the school — which was operating out of a Hollywood church — received approval from the Hollywood City Commission to expand to a new location in the Hillcrest neighborhood, where most of the residents are age 55 and older. The charter school will eventually hold up to 850 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Despite pleas from many of the residents about traffic concerns and noise, the commission said that a school would be a welcome addition to the neighborhood.

But getting the old recreation building retrofitted in time for Monday’s opening was a challenge, the charter school’s CEO, Cyndi Dotson, said over the weekend.

The students will likely be in the temporary facility for the first week of school taking part in workshops and team-building activities, she said.

Even though the students were immediately taken to the off-site location for their first day, Hillcrest residents still got a taste of the traffic to come as parents dropped their kids off. A line of cars snaked around the front of the school and then briefly blocked Hillcrest Drive.

Some parents and students did not seem phased with the construction going on around them.

“I think it’s going to be great once it’s up and running,” said Teresa Grampa, dropping off her four children. “The kids were really excited.”

Laila Verges, 9, who was dressed in her new uniform shirt and skirt, said she was excited about the first day.

“I get to make new friends and learn new things,” she said.