After a proposal for a new high school unleashed community backlash over traffic and thrust issues of race and class into the spotlight, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho laid out sweeping new plans for multiple projects in growing Northeast Miami-Dade.
The school district wants to make room for about 1,000 more high school students by expanding Dr. Michael M. Krop senior and MAST Academy at FIU. Price tag: about $27 million.
“This plan is all-encompassing, listens to all the voices, fully follows due diligence, but ends up delivering, actually, more than I promised,” Carvalho said.
The district now plans to put a new building on the Krop campus that would house 550 students in a separate iPrep Academy – a successful, high-tech program started by Carvalho himself. Additionally, about $3 million would be spent to remodel existing buildings at Krop to fit up to 200 more students.
MAST Academy would finally move out of portables and into a permanent, $12.5 million building big enough for 500 students. Projected opening date: the 2018-2019 school year.
Carvalho said the school district is working to strike a deal with nearby municipalities that could bring another 300 seats to the marine science-themed school, which is housed on the campus of Florida International University.
“It’s a really good outcome for the community,” said school board member Martin Karp, who represents Northeast Dade. “I don’t think anybody gets left out here.”
It all started with a plan to relieve overcrowding at Krop, a school of 2,700 students that straddles the county line. To make more room, the district originally wanted to build an iPrep annex on the athletic fields at Highland Oaks Middle, right off of traffic-clogged Ives Dairy Road and just east of I-95.
The Aventura City Commission cast a symbolic vote in favor of the plan. But on the other side of U.S. 1, there was an outcry from people who preferred an expansion on the current Krop campus, including the Sky Lake-Highland Lakes Area Homeowners Association.
“In the end, we feel they did the right thing and we were heard,” said Marc Hurwitz, president of the homeowners association.
Traffic was a main concern, but the debate was also filled with undertones about race and class, with the I-95 highway creating a symbolic dividing line.
East of the highway, where Highland Oaks Middle is located, neighborhoods and the City of Aventura are wealthier and residents are largely white. On the west, where Krop sits, families are more working class and diverse.
Enid Weisman, the mayor of Aventura, said the city had yet to be informed of an official decision about the new plans for Krop. She declined to say much about the changes, saying she hadn’t heard feedback from Aventura residents.
“I represent people, and it’s prudent for me to listen to their concerns,” she said. “I would never take a position without first listening to people.”
Krop is one of the district’s top-performing high schools. It’s also one of the most diverse, pulling its students from both sides of I-95. The student body is 40 percent black, 22 percent white and 36 percent Hispanic.
Teachers, students and other Krop supporters worried the new iPrep would siphon off the highest performing, least diverse students – leaving Krop with fewer advanced courses and resulting in “accidental segregation,” according to Audrey Silverman, an English teacher who has worked at Krop for a decade.
Since students have to apply to iPrep and meet certain requirements to get in, Silverman worries students will be segregated – regardless of where the new campus is built.
“It sounds like they’re going to skim from our top students so they’re going to be isolated. It’s like we’re going to have two campuses, and one is going to be smart kids and the other is going to be not smart kids,” she said.