MIAMI (CBS4) – The Miami-Dade School Board voted Wednesday to open MAST Academyto all students living in Key Biscayne, but this controversial decision isn’t final.
The 550 students who currently attend the ultra-selective math and science magnet school had to have a 2.5 grade point average, and have their names drawn in a lottery, but Key Biscayne promised $18 million to the school district to open the school to all students who live on the Key as long as they meet the GPA requirement. MAST would become a proximity-based home school for 6th – 12th graders living on the Key under this proposal.
At Wednesday’s meeting, students and parents from Mast academy wore red. They fought the proposal to open admission to Key Biscayne residents. “They’re buying seats to go to MAST, period, end of story,” said Sergio Aranda.
Key Biscayne residents wore white, supporting the proposal. “We’re talking about taking a fantastic school and making it available to even more children,” said Paul Keenan who has a kindergartner.
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.”
After Wednesday night’s vote, both sides left the meeting still divided. The proposal will now go through a series of second votes. The Village of Key Biscayne will take the issue up again, as will the School Board.
Current MAST student Raquel Perez cried after the meeting.
“We’re all unified by our school, by the classes we take, by the passion we have to succeed in our education. That’s what makes Mast what it is and the fact that they’re letting these kids get into Mast because they paid for it is defying what Mast is,” she said through tears.
Currently, the high school for Key Biscayne isCoral GablesSenior High School. But it’s more than 10 miles away, which is further than any other neighborhood to its local school.
“If it’s not broken don’t fix it,” Nazifa Given said during the board meeting.
“If a hurricane destroys the school, that’s an emergency,” said Suzanne Trushin. “This is not an emergency. Please table this to allow both sides to meet.”
Parents worry the proposal to add more than 1,000 seats to the school will mean lower standards for students, but Regalado said 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.
“I don’t think it’s preferential treatment because they have to meet the same standards,” said Jackie Kellogg.
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.