Application For Downtown Miami Charter School Goes Forward
Written by Catherine Lackner on September 21, 2000
By Catherine Lackner
Facing an Oct. 1 deadline, Miami’s Downtown Development Authority is pushing through an application to open a downtown charter school that could accept students as early as August 2002.
If approved by the Miami-Dade School Board and the State of Florida next spring, the clock would be set in motion for the 2002-03 school year.
There are now about 15 charter schools open in the county.
Time is of the essence, Joaquin G. Avino said, because "any delay results in the opening being delayed for a full year, since it is not an option to open a charter school after the school year has commenced."
"We don’t want to own the school. We don’t want the liability," said Miami City Commissioner Willy Gort, authority chairman. He said the development authority decided last week to be responsible for the application and moving the project forward.
Site and budget issues can be resolved after the application is filed, said Mr. Avino, president of Charter Schoolhouse Developers Inc., which would manage the school for the development authority.
Mr. Avino said a site would have to be chosen before the charter application is ruled on next spring.
Three sites are under consideration — a plot adjacent to Bayside Marketplace, behind the Hard Rock CafÇ; a vacant lot north of the City of Miami Administration Building on Southwest Second Avenue and the Miami River, and a site in the Government Center area next to the City of Miami police station on Northwest Second Avenue.
The Bayside site, Mr. Gort said, is preferred because it offers easier access to the central business district, "which is more geared to the east than to the west."
Charter Schoolhouse Developers, winner of the bidding to run the downtown academy, also manages the successful charter school at Ryder System Inc. in West Dade and another in Coral Springs, Mr. Avino said. If it comes to fruition, the downtown school would be run along similar lines.
While the school would be under the Miami-Dade County School District, its management could be tailored by Charter Schoolhouse Developers to meet the specific needs and requirements of parents whose children are enrolled.
Money for teachers’ salaries and other operational costs would be allocated by the Miami-Dade School System based on how many students enroll. The downtown school would serve 500 K-5th grade students, Mr. Avino said.
Plans call for the Downtown Development Authority to create a nonprofit to operate the school and be responsible for securing the site.
"In order for the project to be economically viable, the site must be made available to us by the DDA," Mr. Avino said in a letter to Patti Allen, authority executive director. "The Bayside and the Riverside sites are both under the ownership in some fashion of the City of Miami. The DDA needs to acquire control of the site."
"We’ve always said we wanted to be facilitators for this," board member Carlos Migoya said in support of the project.
"We’ve got to drive the process," agreed board member Jack Peeples.
"The whole idea is to be flexible," Mr. Avino said. "The education system overall is in the midst of a major transformation. Charter schools are on the forefront."