MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A large, vocal crowd is expected at Wednesday’s Miami-Dade School Board meeting as the board takes up a controversial plan to open MAST Academy to all students living in Key Biscayne.
The Key Biscayne Village Council paved the way for Wednesday’s discussion by unanimously approving the $18 million proposal late Tuesday night after more than 2 hours of public comment.
“Key Biscayne has needed a high school for a very long time,” said school board member Raquel Regalado, whose district covers Key Biscayne. “What we want to ensure is that everyone speaks on the issue.”
People on both sides of the debate voiced their opinions at two separate meetings Tuesday.
Many in favor shared their thoughts before the Key Biscayne Village Council.
Students and parents opposed to the plan spoke out during a town-hall style meeting in the MAST Academy auditorium.
“What is happening now is a fundamental betrayal of the principles of Miami-Dade, set up so well in the past by those who are currently managing the project,” MAST parent Michael Bax said.
Fellow parent Sean Schwinghammer echoed his sentiment. “This plan will destroy the school that exists,” he said.
The plan in question involves an $18 million dollar deal that would allow students who live on Key Biscayne to attend MAST Academy without being subject to the selective lottery system for admission. MAST would become a proximity-based home school for 6th – 12th graders living on the Key under this proposal.
“MAST is unique throughout Florida and recognized nationally because it is so diverse,” Schwinghammer said. “And everyone who’s there is there because they’re driven. No one’s forced you to go to school there. You’re there because you qualified.”
Parents worry the proposal to add more than 1,000 seats to the school will mean lower standards for students, but Regalado says students will still need a 2.5 GPA to get in, and a 3.0 to stay.
“Part of the concern and the disconnect that we’re seeing in this discourse is the assumption that children from Key Biscayne are not going to be committed,” Regalado said.
But parents and residents at Tuesday’s council meeting said their kids have what it takes to commit to a school like MAST.
“The parents who live on Key Biscayne who aren’t MAST parents, our community is so wildly enthusiastically positive about this proposal, it’s really been a surprise,” Key Biscayne mayor Frank Caplan said.
The issue of financing still needs to be ironed out.
The proposal also includes a plan to improve Key Biscayne’s K-8 Center, which is overcrowded and in need of repairs.