School board approves controversial East Kendall Somerset school

Controversial plans to turn a small neighborhood school in East Kendall into a 2,000-student campus are one step closer to fruition now that the Miami-Dade School Board has agreed to two five-year contracts with Somerset Academy Inc.

Board members voted in favor of Somerset’s proposals to open two schools in August at Pinewood Acres, 9500 SW 97th Ave., despite objections from neighbors. Unhappy residents contacted board members before their Wednesday meeting, hoping they would oppose the schools or at least hold off on a vote until Miami-Dade County decides whether to approve Somerset’s expansion application.

“We believe that by the School Board approving these applications you will be putting the cart before the horse, keeping in mind that the approval process from Miami-Dade County has a long way to go,” wrote Jose Suarez, president of the East Kendall Homeowners Federation.

But Board Member Carlos Curbelo said state law gives the school board little discretion in approving contracts with charter schools. Curbelo said he lives just blocks from the site.

“We have a ministerial function here. If the entity complies by the law we must approve the charter,” he said.

According to the district, the board approved an elementary and middle school that in their first year will host a combined 314 students. By the end of the contract term, the schools could be home to up to 1,500 students. Somerset’s application to the county shows the management company wants to eventually run a K-12 hosting 2,000 students.

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