The roof leaks, the air conditioning chronically malfunctions and corroded plumbing in bathrooms sends the stench of urine into the hallways.
So when it came time four years ago to open a new building at Miami Beach Senior High - 12,000 square feet of slick floors, apple-red lockers and high-tech classrooms - teachers and students eagerly settled in.
Then it rained.
Within weeks, water coursed into the building through the roof, windows and doors, rotting electrical wire and drywall. The bathroom ceilings collapsed. Leaks in Gloria Inclan's chemistry class destroyed a dozen computers.
The 890 lockers have never been used. They cost an estimated $30,000, but students at Miami Beach are not allowed to use them for security reasons.
Last spring, custodians planting bushes struck electrical wire buried just two inches beneath the dirt and blew the power.
"This is a new building, " fumed Assistant Principal George Pollack earlier this school year. "This shouldn't have happened."
Miami Beach High's struggle to educate students on a haggard and outdated campus is an alarming example of how Miami-Dade Public Schools' 15-year-old, $6 billion building program failed communities waiting for newer, safer, less crowded schools.
School board inertia and frustrating building delays have stifled progress at Miami Beach High. And new construction, which should have brought relief, instead delivered more problems.
Districtwide, at least 19 new buildings suffer from ongoing deficiencies including cracking stucco and extensive water leaks, which can create mold and mildew. The district's staff are checking dozens more buildings now. Instead of calling back architects or contractors, the school district in dozens of cases relied on its own overwhelmed maintenance force to fix the problems, which steals time from the upkeep of schools. Today, Miami Beach High is crumbling.
It is a campus where water stains streak dingy stairwells, the clocks tell the wrong time, electrical wire dangles from the ceiling, rainwater floods un-level outdoor hallways, light fixtures have rusted and holes mar classroom walls.
Pollack has a tool set stashed in his desk. He scrambles across campus with a walkie-talkie at his ear, a math teacher turned go-to man, juggling building breakdowns. "It's like no one pays attention to us, " said Alan Cook, a linebacker on the football team. "You kind of feel like if they don't care, why should we?"
Miami Beach High is now scheduled for massive construction, costing an estimated $51.5 million. But planning for the project has taken more than 30 months and construction won't start for at least a year and a half.
Students who were 14-year-old freshmen when the planning began will be in college by the time the first nail is hit.
"My kids have loved it here and they've had excellent teachers, " said Kathy Bass, co-president of the PTA. "But when I see the filth here, it's just an embarrassment. "This school has been held together with duct tape."
Case in point: On a humid morning last fall, three firefighters stormed the school's cafeteria.
A kitchen worker tried to plug a food warmer into an electrical outlet when sparks shot five feet into the air. She leapt back and shouted for help. Minutes later, Lt. Jack Richardson with Miami Beach Fire Rescue pried the burned outlet cover off the wall. The outlet sparked a second time, and he jumped from the flames.