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Front Page » Top Stories » Charter School Site Now West Of Miami Police Station

Charter School Site Now West Of Miami Police Station


Written by on December 21, 2000

By Catherine Lackner
A charter school proposed for downtown is on the move again, this time directly west of Miami’s police station at 400 NW Second Ave.

The property, nicknamed the dust bowl, has apparently bested two sites first considered by the Downtown Development Authority, which is sponsoring the school.

The newly chosen site has excellent access to I-95 as well as the Miami-Dade County Government Center, Metrorail and Metromover connections, said Patti Allen, authority executive director.

It is also slightly larger than the previous front-runner — a vacant lot owned by the Miami Parking Authority adjoining the Riverside Center office building, 444 SW Second Ave.

When a charter school was first discussed last summer, the authority had its eye on a plot adjacent to Bayside Marketplace because it offered easy access to the central business district. But its waterfront location, which raised liability and cost issues, prompted the authority to scrutinize the riverfront location.

The property adjacent to the police station was never ruled out, however.

"The police department had hopes they could expand their training facility there," said Miami Commissioner Willy Gort, who chairs the development authority.

That hasn’t been ruled out, he said. "There’s plenty of land there. Maybe the charter school can help the police department."

Mr. Gort also announced the charter school has won the backing of the Miami-Dade School Board, clearing another hurdle.

"We will be getting a school downtown," Mr. Gort promised the development authority’s board.

If the state approves next spring, the school could accept students as early as August 2002.

About 15 charter schools now operate in the county.

Time was of the essence, Joaquin Avi§¢ said as the agency rushed to meet an Oct. 1 deadline, 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 Mr. Gort when the application was filed, but the authority agreed 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. Avi§¢, president of Charter Schoolhouse Developers Inc., which won the bidding to manage the school.

Mr. Avi§¢ said a site must be chosen before the charter application is ruled on next spring.

Charter Schoolhouse Developers also manages a charter school at Ryder System Inc. in West Dade and one in Coral Springs, Mr. Avi§¢ said. The downtown school, he said, would be run along similar lines.

While the school would be under the Miami-Dade County School District, Charter Schoolhouse Developers could tailor it to meet the needs and requirements of parents who enroll pupils.

Money to pay teachers and other costs would be allocated by the Miami-Dade School System based on how many pupils enroll. The downtown school would serve 500 K-5th grade pupils, Mr. Avi§¢ said.

Plans call for the Downtown Development Authority to create a nonprofit organization 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. Avi§¢ wrote to Ms. Allen. "The sites are 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," authority board member Carlos Migoya said when the application was filed.

"We’ve got to drive the process," agreed board member Jack Peeples.

"The whole idea is to be flexible," Mr. Avi§¢ said. "The education system overall is in the midst of a major transformation. Charter schools are on the forefront."