Miami Gardens / Opa-locka

Miami-Dade

SEED to be South Florida’s first public boarding school

 

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

The proposed site for the first public boarding school in South Florida has been moved about 22 miles north from the outskirts of a Kendall park to Miami Gardens.

The SEED School of Miami will be housed on the campus of Florida Memorial University after initial plans placed it in a space on the outskirts of Indian Hammocks Park. The school would take in groups of sixth-graders and house and educate them in a 24-hour school system Monday through Friday. The students would return home on the weekends and then return to the campus on Sunday afternoon, when the cycle begins again.

The school — which has two other locations, one in Washington, D.C., that opened in 1998 and another in Baltimore that opened in 2008 — aims to reach out to troubled or under-performing students in mainly urban areas. The school’s president, Fran Allegra, said that FMU provided a unique opportunity as a historically black university to appeal to children in a city that has a majority-black population.

“I think that Miami Gardens is the right place for SEED to be, the mission of SEED speaks to the mission of Miami Gardens,” Allegra said. “We were trying to create a community, and we were invited to join an existing community.”

The SEED (Schools for Educational Evolution and Development) Foundation began as an idea between founders Rajiv Vinnakota and Eric Adler, who essentially wanted to create a school for the students who needed boarding school resources but could not afford to attend one.

Bringing the school to South Florida has been a years-long process involving the support of Tia Díaz-Balart the wife of U.S. Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart, R-Miami, and other backers. The program initially encountered problems with recruiting applicants and finding funding. The school was recently given $1.4 million from the state’s budget at the end of the legislative session.

Allegra said that money was not the motivation for the move to FMU and that the university is the home for SEED for the foreseeable future.

“An opportunity like this arose and an opportunity to be a part of this great campus and this great community, so we jumped at it,” Allegra said.

FMU president Roslyn Clark Artis said the partnership was “huge” for the school and a “perfect synergy.”

“It is a very logical marriage between Florida Memorial University and SEED Miami,” Artis said.

The 60 students were chosen through a lottery process and will be housed in Building 1 on the school’s campus. The students will primarily operate out of it, while still having a chance to interact with the students on campus in a controlled setting.

“There will be recreation space that will be cordoned off, so they’ll have some time outside to enjoy our campus,” Artis said.

The head of the school, Kara Locke, said that safety will be a priority and that Building 1 will act as the main hub for the kids.

“Classes will all, for the most part, be in Building 1 so that our students can be can be sixth-graders and do so in a way that doesn’t interfere with the college students’ learning,” Locke said.

She said she looks forward to developing opportunities for FMU education students to work with SEED.

“The school of education is interested in ways that their students can come do some observation hours and perhaps some internship experience at SEED since we’re right there on campus,” Locke said.

Students and parents will begin orientation in early July, and classes are set to begin in August. The 60 sixth-grade students will be the initial class, with plans to add more students and additional grades until a class of 400 graduate in 2021.

“SEED is not just about college prep — it’s about getting kids to attend and finish college,” Allegra said.

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