Southside Expansion Update Winter 2016

Editor’s Note: The issue of public school alternatives for the Brickell community remains high on the BHA Legislative Agenda as the need to serve Brickell families is acute. This article provides an update on efforts to convert Southside to a K-8 school. (Read background.)


MDCPS and the City of Miami to expand Southside Elementary School to a K-8 school with a satellite campus for the new upper school located at the site of the City’s Fire Station No. 4. The plan was to co-locate the new school on the property with a newly renovated fire station, with both Southside campuses sharing the nearby Southside Park for their outdoor activities.

After more than a year of informal talks, the Miami-Dade School Board recently moved to formalize those talks through a unanimous vote to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the proposed Southside project at Fire Station No. 4. As part of that September 7th vote, the School Board also approved the Superintendent’s five-year strategic plan which allocates more than $50 million toward projects related to Southside Elementary School and secondary school seats, including the completion of the renovation of the current campus and construction costs associated with the new satellite campus.

Recently our friends at the Southside PTA were advised by City officials that the Fire Station No. 4 plans were no longer under consideration. The City Fire Chief was never on board with the coupling of his emergency operations with public school students in the same facility.

More troubling than the failure of the plan to get real support was that officials offered no alternative plans and/or ideas for resolving the underlying issue. Inquiries made to representatives from the negotiating parties (MDCPS and the City of Miami) and other stakeholders (i.e. Education Planning Group) involved in this issue to seek more information about exploring the next alternative, to date have gone unaddressed.

Where Do We Go from Here . . .

The planning process for addressing the Urban Core’s educational needs had been accelerated since the Education Forum in spring 2016. Representatives from the City of Miami, MDCPS, and other stakeholders were meeting weekly to come up with solutions for the education issues we face in the Brickell and Downtown area. That effort with the recent setbacks has been stalled to nearly a standstill.

Unfortunately, to date BHA has still not received any information about timelines for current and/or future projects. “We know neighbors want to see something happen and BHA will continue to advocate on their behalf as long as it takes to solve the problem,” BHA President Gail Feldman said.

BHA is planning a series of events beginning in the New Year to keep this issue in the forefront. In January our first meeting of the New Year (January 17) will be hosted by our new friends from Mater Academy. BHA has been invited to see firsthand Mater Academy’s state-of-the-art campus in Coconut Grove, which will serve as a model for the future Mater Brickell Academy. Meeting attendees will also learn more about the plans for the school and its timeline for completion.

Throughout the winter and spring of 2017 our goal is to keep this issue foremost on the minds and agendas of all the Urban Core stakeholders. Our plan is to step up our advocacy efforts leading up to our Second Annual Brickell/Downtown Education Forum in spring 2017, on May 31, 2017.

BHA will continue to work with Urban Core stakeholders to organize our education advocacy efforts to ensure our area’s issues are heard and addressed appropriately. But we can’t do it alone, we need the voices of residents at every juncture. Please take a few minutes to review the “Call to Action” below and share it with your friends, neighbors, and others who care about quality education in the Brickell area. Sam Joseph, BHA’s Director of Advocacy, is leading this initiative and welcomes residents to join the movement.

For more information about how you can get more involved in this important issue, contact him at

Call to Action

  • Spread the word among your “circles of influence” about the effort to bring excellence in education to the Downtown/Brickell area
  • Do your research – Find out more about the educational resources/assets available in your community
  • Schedule site visits to local educational institutions to learn more about them
  • Submit ideas for improving education in the Urban Core to your elected officials
  • Hold officials accountable for addressing your needs, concerns, and/or ideas
  • Support the institutions and/or people who support you and your family
  • Stay active, informed, and engaged
  • Submit ideas for improving education in the Urban Core and/or next year’s Forum at #DowntownBrickellEducationForum