Miami-Dade schools

School Board may convert struggling Campbell Drive Middle to magnet school

One year after creating a state-ordered plan to change the course of struggling Campbell Drive Middle School, the Miami-Dade school district has a new vision for the under-performing and under-enrolled school.

The School Board on Wednesday will take its first look at a proposal to re-purpose the school at 900 NE 23rd Ave., Homestead — possibly as a magnet school for advanced academics serving high school and perhaps middle school students. Campbell Drive’s current and future students would be transferred to nearby Homestead and Redland middle schools, but might be able to apply for seats at the re-purposed school.

Campbell Drive’s new model — which remains a work in progress — would kick in this fall if finalized. The School Board will take the first of two votes on its attendance zone Wednesday.

“This is going to be so [South Dade] children won’t have to leave to go to a high academic facility,” said School Board member Lawrence Feldman. “I think the idea really was we need to look at the school so we can make a nice place that offers something for everybody, not just kids in our schools but also kids who go to charter schools and private schools.”

The proposal comes during a year in which the state required the district enact a “turnaround” plan for Campbell Drive Middle due to its repeated “D” grades from the Florida Department of Education. State law forced districts last year to come up with concrete ways to improve such low-performing schools, which could be shuttered or converted to charters if improvement is not seen over several years.

But Associate Superintendent Pablo Ortiz, who oversees the district’s Education Transformation Office for struggling schools, said the new plan for Campbell Drive is not driven by the school’s academic woes. Rather, he said, it is a nod to the school’s shrinking enrollment. With 444 students this year, it is only one-third full. Similarly, Homestead and Redland middle schools, which together would take on 365 current and future Campbell Drive students, are substantially under-enrolled.

“Part of our responsibility is to maximize the use of all of our facilities. We have three middle schools impacted that are under-enrolled,” Ortiz said. “We want to solidify the enrollment at Redland and Homestead Middle, and then that gives us an opportunity to use Campbell Drive in a unique fashion.”

Exactly how Campbell Drive Middle would change is not certain. Ortiz said the details are being hammered out, and what grades the school will serve — and even whether the school will be a magnet — remain unresolved. But Ortiz said the change would start in the fall and benefit all schools involved.

He stressed that the two schools receiving Campbell Drive’s students, including more than 100 with special needs, are well-prepared for the change and would receive extra funds and new programming along with the school’s students. Students currently zoned to attend Campbell Drive Middle and living north of Southwest 312th Street would attend Redland Middle. Students to the south would attend Homestead Middle.

“Really, this allows us to strengthen what’s at those middle schools, add a few wrinkles to what they’re doing and to better align them with their high schools,” Ortiz said. “That can only help them.”

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