Parents sound off against MAST Academy expansion
VILLAGE OF KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Parents and students are sounding off about a multi-million-dollar expansion plan that could more than double the enrollment at one of South Florida's premier magnet schools.
Maritime and Science Technology Academy is located in Virginia Key. The magnet school accepts freshman who meet very stringent academic requirements, including GPA, advanced middle school courses, attendance and conduct.
To the east of MAST Academy lies the Village of Key Biscayne, which currently has no high school and an overcrowded K-8 center. "It's gotten worse. It promises to get worse," said Key Biscayne Mayor Frank Caplan.
The Village of Key Biscayne came up with a plan to address both issues by paying about half the cost, or $9 million, to expand MAST Academy to about triple its current student population. This would allow the school to enroll more high school students and accept middle school students. Students would have to meet the same academic requirements, but Key Biscayne residents would be considered first for enrollment. Caplan said, "We think this is a win-win, and we're doing it not only because I think we have to, which we do, but we want to."
However, some parents whose children attend MAST are not happy with the expansion plan because they are worried that academics at MAST will suffer with the influx of students. Parents also said that just because Key Biscayne will help finance the expansion, it does not mean that they own the school. "Nobody here is an owner of this," said parent Michael Bax. "This is an institution of excellence owned by the citizens of Miami-Dade. It's not owned by one party, and you can't buy it."
MAST students like Michelle Garcia also spoke out against the plan. "It was exciting to go to a small school, because everybody knows each other, and you have this relationship with your teachers," she said.
According to Key Biscayne officials, academic requirements at MAST Academy will remain the same if the expansion plan is approved. Miami-Dade County School Board Member Racquel Regalado said, "We're not lowering the standards. [The students] are going to have to meet the same standards. The issue is that they will have certain allotments because of their residency."
The expansion issue was discussed on Tuesday at a town hall meeting for parents held at MAST and at a Village of Key Biscayne council meeting. During one meeting, Key Biscayne resident Alan Fein said, "We have kids who are excellent students and want to be around other kids who think being smart is cool."
Council members passed the measure, but the school board must also discuss the plan.
If approved, the new school will open its doors in 2015. Officials are trying to fast-track the measure so the new students can begin attending MAST in the fall.
(Copyright 2012 by Sunbeam Television Corp. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)