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PUBLIC EDUCATION: Growing Brickell Families Seek Options

Brickell’s and Downtown’s transformation over the past decade has resulted in a lot more new buildings, amenities, traffic and people. This growth has also fueled a significant increase in families choosing an urban home in the heart of the city. Along with families, comes a need for access to quality, affordable schools.

Currently, in some cases, the zoned public school choices in the neighborhood are at capacity or are not ranked as “high performing”. Many residents have been asking for new public or charter school options…in the neighborhood.

The need for public school options has been a BHA priority for many years. “Many families in BHA are strongly in favor of having an educational alternative in the neighborhood and want to see a school built so they can remain in the neighborhood,” read a BHA October 2010 Resolution in support of a charter school being considered on the edge of Brickell at 1742-44 SW 2nd Avenue. That effort met with opposition from neighbors outside of Brickell who were concerned about traffic. The proposal got tied up in legal battles and was subsequently abandoned.

The new schools issue was recently addressed by Miami-Dade County Public Schools Board Representative Raquel Regalado, whose school district encompasses a large part of Brickell. With father, Mayor Tomás Regalado, at her side, she unveiled a plan for a new high school for Brickell and Downtown while speaking to Brickell Leaders at their inaugural Round Table Luncheon in August hosted by BHA and Toscana Divino.

“I believe that Downtown and Brickell need a traditional high school,” Representative Regalado said, “where students can participate in athletics.”

A site, a plan, a priority

Rep. Regalado Rep. Regalado has a site and a plan that repurposes land located on the northern edge of Downtown at 137 NE 19 Street formerly occupied by the now closed early childhood school operating at Temple Israel. When combined with contiguous property owned by the City of Miami, there is enough land to construct a new high school for Downtown and Brickell. BHA leaders were encouraged to hear what appears to be a promising proposal. If funding is secured.

Rep. Regalado said she believes a traditional high school should offer a full athletic program including a football field. She said she also wants to see the school host an International Baccalaureate Program, which is a rigorous, pre-university course of studies that “offers motivated students an opportunity to excel.” This is a gold standard for achievement in high schools that involves a lengthy, costly process for admission to the international program. But it’s a cost that Rep. Regalado said she believes is worth it, and would be especially well received by the residents of the Brickell community.

Current Public School Options for Brickell

  • Elementary Brickell children are zoned for Southside Elementary or Coral Way, both of which offer K-8 grade curriculum and are rated A schools.
  • Students in middle school grades 6 -8 either go to Shenandoah Middle, rated a straight C school for the past four years, or Ponce de Leon Middle, which was rated an A school in 2011 and 2012, but has dropped to a B in the past two years.
  • High School g students in grades 9-12 who live north of Southeast 15th Road are zoned for Booker T. Washington High School which has been rated with two Cs and a D in the past three years and was ranked “Incomplete” in the June 2014 MDCPS report.
  • High school student in grades 9 -12 who live south of Southeast 15th Road attend Miami Senior High, which moved from a C rating to a B in 2012 and 2013 and was also given Incomplete in June 2014.

Public Educational Options Outside the Neighborhood

  • Miami-Dade Public Schools does offer magnet programs and the International Baccalaureate Program at various schools outside of the Brickell area, to which students must apply for admission.
  • For students in K-8, the IBP program is offered for Portuguese and Spanish at Ada Merritt K-8 Center in Coral Gables.
  • For high school students grades 9-12, there’s the New World School of the Arts located in Downtown which is focused on the visual and performing arts.
  • Mast Academy on Virginia Key, also for high school students, is focused on maritime and science technology.

While BHA has had the issue of public school options on its Legislative Agenda for many years, there is a renewed urgency to provide public school options as more families with children make Brickell their home. We look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Regalado and other School Board members and officials on the issue.toscanalogo

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Special thanks to Toscana Divino for hosting the Education Round Table and providing a beautiful luncheon for Brickell leaders to discuss this important, timely topic.

From BHA News Vol. XXIV No. 2, Summer/Fall 2014