County school administrators were in Pinecrest Thursday night to provide to talk to parents about plans to improve school facilities in Southeast Miami-Dade.
County voters agreed in November to allow the school district to borrow up to $1.2 billion to repair and upgrade school buildings and install new technology.
Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Assistant Superintendent Helen Blanch, Chief Facilities Officer Jaime Torrens, and School Board member Larry Feldman were at Palmetto Middle School as part of a series of meetings to talk with parents about bond-funded projects. About 600 people attended.
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. on May 13 at Coral Gables High School, 450 Bird Road.
“Today is about ensuring promises are kept,” said Carvalho, who has been going to each of the community meetings.
He reviewed the bond’s “eight guiding principles”, out of which he emphasized the most critical were: updating every school with wireless capability, enhancing security and surveillance equipment, and establishing a vigilant oversight committee.
“Up to a couple of years ago, we recognized that out of 450 schools only about 20 were wirelessly connected,” said Carvalho, adding that technology updates in every school is the most important element of the bond, and schools will see those changes first.
Doris Carpenter, a resident of South Miami Heights and mother of one child at Cutler Ridge Elementary, said her school needs digital whiteboards and new computers.
“They can’t succeed if they don’t have everything that they need because they can’t compete,” said Carpenter. “They’re sort of left behind.”
Within the first year, at least 70,000 new computers and tablets will be brought into Miami-Dade classrooms, according to Assistant Superintendent Blanch.
Carvalho repeatedly emphasized the promises made during campaigning would not change, but rather, he and the school board would exceed them.
Contrary to the original bond agreement that stated every school in the county would be impacted in six to seven years, with projects totaling $200 million per year, Carvalho announced for the first time that the county will be speeding up some of the money, shortening the time of completion to four to five years.
“We were able to do this by leveraging low interest rates that were bound to go up through Bank of America,” said Carvalho.
According to Facilities Officer Torrens, there are 46 projects for Feldman’s District 9, in South Miami-Dade. Sixty percent of these projects will begin during the first phase of implementation. They include interior and exterior renovations, HVAC work and security.