Update 6/14/12: On June 13th at the meeting, the school board approved F-7. They also de it clear they want to do this with other magnet schools as well. This now isn't just a matter with preserving MAST. It is now a matter of preserving ALL magnet programs in the area.
According to the Islander News (Key Biscayne Local newspaper), for the past four months, representatives of the Village of Key Biscayne have worked with the Miami-Dade School District to establish a local high school by adding a second building on the MAST campus. This plan is on a fast track that would include already adding portables to accommodate 8th and 9th grade students from Key Biscayne starting in August if an agreement is made between the Key Biscayne Council and the Miami-Dade School Board during the School Board meeting on Wednesday, June 13th. Once the new building is completed, 1,100 students Key Biscayne students from grades 6 to 12 will be guaranteed a space at the school starting in 2014.
This is an urgent call to the Mast Community including MAST alumni, faculty, ex-faculty, parents, current students, and friends of the school to come together at this time to ensure that we preserve what has made MAST great and that we are well represented at the table and our opinions heard before these drastic changes affecting our school take hold. It is very possible that during the next week the future of MAST academy may be changed forever without much time, thought and representation from the MAST community.
I understand that Key Biscayne Community School is struggling with overcrowding. However, studies investigating the effects of class size have been markedly mixed, with some finding no effect whatsoever. Others emphasize a school culture centered on academic achievement. MAST has this in abundance. Students must meet certain requirements before they apply to MAST and even then, they enter a lottery. Their zeal does not abate after they’ve been accepted: 98 percent take AP courses, our student publications frequently earn national awards, and 100 percent graduate. MAST students attend universities all over the country, serve in every branch of the military, represent America abroad, volunteer domestically; the list of accomplishments is varied and endless. However, no matter how far we travel, we remain connected to MAST.
Guaranteeing students a spot at MAST would destroy this culture. MAST Academy gained its recognition because every student and faculty member wants to be there. Many students travel hours each day to attend MAST Academy. Others stay hours after the last bell to complete academic assignments or participate in activities like the student newspaper or various clubs. There is nothing stopping Key Biscayne students from applying to and attending MAST Academy under the same criteria as every other student.
This project would forever change not only the MAST Academy student population and culture, but also its beautiful campus. Students throughout the years have shaped this site by planting gardens, installing solar panels, and cleaning the beaches, among other things, which would likely be destroyed by the proposed portables, new permanent building, underground parking, and walk-through area. The new construction would eliminate the possibility for future students to similarly contribute. I also wonder if this is the most prudent construction plan for an island barely above sea level.
A June 7th article in The Islander newspaper suggested that financing is the biggest issue facing the School Board. The $18 million price tag would be shared evenly between the Village of Key Biscayne and the School District with the possibility of revisiting the agreement “if the district’s financial picture improves during the 30-year term of the loan.” While any opportunity for new funding is certainly not to be dismissed lightly, I imagine the school board’s time and resources would be better spent serving all its students throughout the county rather than these select few.
As previously stated, MAST Academy is a remarkable institution that offers its
students an educational foundation that will last the rest of their lives if they are willing to put in the effort. I would urge you to vote against this proposal, which would permanently devastate our school’s campus, student population, and culture. While I sympathize with the overcrowding at the Key Biscayne Community School, surely there is another way to address it.
This also will affect other magnet programs in the area, as at the June 13th meeting, it was clear they want and plan to do with this with all the magnet schools. Without these programs, the kids who enjoy their education, and need this higher learning institutions will be at a loss. I am expressing my concern over this matter, and believe these institutions need to be preserved.