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MAST Academy Supporters Against Expansion Proposal

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images/William Thomas Cain)

(Photo Credit: Getty Images/William Thomas Cain)

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Some parents who send their children to the highly regarded Maritime & Science Technology (MAST) Academy on Key Biscayne are upset about village and school district’s plan to develop a 6-12 grade home school on the property.

Every year MAST receives over 1,000 applications from highly qualified students for 160 open seats.
While it’s a lottery process to get it, students need to have a high GPA and meet other requirements to even be admitted into the lottery.

The proposed plan, which is to be considered and publicly discussed by both the School Board of Miami-Dade County and the Village of Key Biscayne Council, would add approximately 1,100 seats in grades 6 – 12 for eligible Village of Key Biscayne students, on the MAST property, said Schuster. Critics of the proposal said these students would not have to meet the rigorous requirements of current MAST students. As for the existing 550 magnet seats in 9-12th grades, they would continue to be open to a countywide selection.

“It’s not fair that they’re just going give this opportunity to the Key Biscayne kids because when they get this opportunity they’re just going take it for granted,” said Delma Fonseca, a student at MAST. “Since we had to work hard for it, we know what we got into and we know that it’s a really good school.”

Many MAST Academy parents gathered on Sunday to organize a campaign to stop the MAST reorganization plan. They said they expect to be at the Miami Dade School Board meeting to speak out against the issue.

“I think that’s a shame,” said Michael Bax, dad from MAST. “I think that’s a betrayal of the work of 20 years of teachers of the people who founded this. If anybody is going to tell me that this is going to add to quality I think that that’s a deceitful statement.”

Key Biscayne has pledged $18 million worth of financing, including a contribution of $9 million toward construction.

Parents who oppose the project say that Key Biscayne Elementary is at 135 percent capacity and money would be better spent on relief. The added that the Village of Key Biscayne has wanted a high school for years but couldn’t come up with a plan that would work with the school district or as a charter school.

The plan, which will be taken up by the Village council and the county’s school board this week, would reportedly add portables on MAST campus to help alleviate over crowding in the 2012-2013 school year; 8th graders from K-8 would be housed in the portables.

Portions of the existing MAST school would then be renovated for an expansion. The District will reportedly add a three-story addition to the campus paralleling the main building. It will include 44 to 50 classrooms.

Critics say MAST will then become a 6-12 home school which will cater to 1500 students with 550 positions open for countywide selection. High school admittance would be guaranteed for Key Biscayne students who meet the minimum GPA.

Those against the plan argue that converting MAST into a home school for a privileged community is at cross purposes with the MAST mission.

“Not only has MAST consistently ranked among the top high schools in the U.S. according to expert sources at US News and World Report and Newsweek, but the relationships the school has developed with the admissions offices at the very best colleges and universities across our nation is exemplary,” wrote Elena Delgado and William Hilton in a letter to Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. “In addition, the scholarships that these institutions of higher learning have made available to deserving MAST students every year are prolific and noteworthy.”

They add that MAST has put Miami on the map as a city that values and supports a free and accessible education for the most talented and highest achieving student.

“Are you prepared to dilute this initiative and destroy this dynamic? We hope your answer is no,” wrote Delgado and Hilton.

The school district points out that just because there will be more students on the campus that doesn’t mean MAST will lose its high standards.

“It is worth looking at comparable magnet programs,” said Schuster. “Coral Reef Senior High has over 3,000 students and uses the more stringent MAST entrance level requirements in only one of its six Academies. Yet, it continuously ranks alongside MAST on all national lists. The larger numbers enhance the course offerings allowing the Coral Reef students to explore numerous areas of study beyond their selected academy.”

The Village of Key Biscayne council is expected to discuss the proposal at its meeting on Tuesday, the school board is expected to bring it up at their meeting the following day.

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