MIAMI (CBS4 ) — A $1.2 billion bond referendum pitched by Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho has been approved by the Miami-Dade School Board in a vote of 7-2.

It’s the first step in a lengthy process to get it on the November ballot. The money will be used to renovate dilapidated schools in Miami-Dade, schools like Shenandoah Middle School which has holes, peeled paint, original windows from the 1940s and doorknobs that aren’t accessible to the handicap.

Victor Alonso, Design Officer for Miami-Dade County Schools, recently gave Chief I-Team Investigator Michele Gillen an unblemished review of school conditions. Problems and potential risks for students, he said, which are not unique to Shenandoah Middle, but to dozens of schools in the district which are over 70-years old.

“The windows are wood framed and from the 1940’s. The air conditioners are so loud, the children often can’t hear the teacher, so they have to shut it off,” said Alonso as he described schools he said desperately need face lifts, upgrades in technology and more.

At Shenandoah, the building has not been painted since Hurricane Andrew, explained new principal Humberto Miret. He’s only been on the job two weeks but he said he is hopeful change and dollars for a revamp are in the future of a school with so much history.

“I had a parent just today saying she was pulling her child out,” he explained. The mother, he said, was dissatisfied with the physical plant and conditions of the school.

Walking the halls, Miret and Alonso pointed out that the guard rails are decades old, and even the door knobs need to be replaced to assist handicapped students. Even a walk into the boy’s toilet area reveals a problem, there is no ventilation and so the odor can make one nauseous.

Alonzo met with Gillen to pull the curtain back on conditions that he said are triggering the push by Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho to attempt to get a 1.2 billion dollar bond referendum on the November ballot that would fund a massive overhaul of schools but in infrastructure and for advances in technology.

“It’s about investing in our community and protecting our kids and affording them a chance to learn in schools that dignify their existence and empowering them with technology they deserve,” said Alberto Carvalho.

The referendum has supporters and critics.

“This is the best investment we can make. We help the children. It’s a direct investment back into the community,” Miret said.

Critics worry about the cost.

“This will essentially be another property tax if it passes,” said District 5 School Board Member Renier Diaz De La Portilla.“We’ll be obligated for the next 30 years, passing the debt down to our children and our children’s children.”

The next step for the superintendent is to detail a plan on where and how the money will be spent. The plan must then be approved by both the Department of Education and the Board of Elections in order for it to make it on to the November ballot.


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