Report On School Overcrowding Expected Next Month
By Sherri C. Ranta
A task force studying ways to ease crowding in Miami-Dade County Public Schools is expected to report next month.
"We’re trying to be very creative as to what we can do to address overcrowding situations. It’s definitely needed," said Dannie McMillion, a past president of Dade County Council PTA/PTSA who serves on the task force.
The report from the Work Group on Public Schools Overcrowding Relief originally was expected in June. The group is led by Miami-Dade County Commissioner Katy Sorenson and school board member Marta Perez.
"The idea is to come up with solutions," Ms. Sorenson said last spring. "We can’t build schools fast enough in this county."
Enrollment is expected to grow by 50,000 pupils to 392,000 by 2010, according to district projections.
The group, Ms. Sorenson said, is looking at state and local regulations "in terms of being an impediment" to building schools and what can be done to "cut through the red tape" and expedite construction.
State guidelines suggest acreage for schools, but a local school board, Ms. Sorenson said, can override that with a two-thirds vote.
"In this day and age, we’re running out of land," she said, "We need to be looking at less acreage and more vertical buildings."
Double sessions – often unpopular with parents – and elimination of middle schools are two ideas the group has discussed, said Rolando Llanes, a group member and principal at architectural firm Civica whose clients include charter schools.
Students grouped in elementary schools for kindergarten through eighth grade and high schools for grades 9 through 12 are a common practice among charter and private schools, he said. The practice eliminates the need for a third set of shared facilities such as gyms, libraries and cafeterias.
The task force plans to meet Sept. 10, when members are expected to issue a report to the school board and the county commission, Ms. McMillion said. The meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m.-noon at the School Board Administration Building, 1450 NE Second Ave., Miami.