LOXHATCHEE GROVES — With $30 million in state funding now secured, Palm Beach State College expects to break ground in the fall to build a new dental and medical services technology building at its Loxahatchee Groves campus.
“It has been a long time coming, but we are finally ready to build this much-needed facility,” said Palm Beach State College President Ava Parker, noting that the college has been waiting for state funding since 2017, when it received the initial appropriation of $5 million.
The college already offers programs for dental assistants and hygienists at its Lake Worth Beach campus as well as a degree in surgical services. It expects to offer a program for physical therapist assistants once the new facility opens in Loxahatchee Groves.
Plans call for the relocation of the existing program from Lake Worth Beach to Loxahatchee Groves.
Gov. Ron DeSantis on June 2 signed into law a state budget that included $25 million for the dental school. The total cost is expected to be more than $50 million. The college has secured private funds to supplement the state funding.
With construction prices continuing to rise, Parker said the college wants to move forward as quickly as possible. She expects construction to take up to three years.
“We have done as much as we could do with the funds already appropriated,” Parker said. “We hired a construction manager in anticipation of getting the remainder of the state funds.”
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The four-story, 84,000-square-foot building will include science labs, general classrooms and administrative offices.
“Through this project, our students will be one step ahead by benefiting from state-of-the-art equipment and technology that will assist them in their health science careers while meeting industry needs,” Parker said. “It will also allows us to expand our offerings.”
Why PBSC wants a new dental school building and a new location for it
Parker noted that the building at the Lake Worth Beach campus is more than 50 years old. It will be torn down once the new facility is built. The current one-story building has been retrofitted as much as possible, Parker said, noting it is too small to meet current needs. Eventually, Parker said that the program for dental hygienists and dental assistants will be expanded to include more students. Forty-eight students are expected to be enrolled in the dental programs this fall.
One reason for moving the dental program was to enhance the college’s presence in the western communities, Parker said, which provides continuing education for about 200 local dentists who are members of the Atlantic Coast Dental Research Clinic. Participating dentists at the clinic provide low-cost dental treatment, including fillings, implants and oral surgery.
Palm Beach County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes Loxahatchee Groves, said she was pleased that the project has secured its $25 million appropriation.
“This will provide needed skills for students to develop a career in medical fields, adding: “I am grateful to our legislative partners who ushered this through, but especially Senate President Wilton Simpson. It is a great win for the western communities.”
The Loxahatchee Groves campus is at the northwest corner of Southern Boulevard and B Road in western central Palm Beach County. The 75-acre facility, which opened five years ago as the college’s fifth campus, serves more than 5,000 students annually. Parker said long-range plans call for continued expansion of facilities at the Loxahatchee campus.
Serving 48,000 students annually, Palm Beach State College is the largest higher-education institution in Palm Beach County. It is the only publicly accredited program offering degrees to dental assistants in Palm Beach County. The school’s other campuses are in Boca Raton, Palm Beach Gardens and Belle Glade.
Mike Diamond is a journalist at the Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. He covers county government and transportation. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Help support local journalism. Subscribe today.