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More North Miami Senior High Construction News
By: Traci Easley

March 31, 2005
Section: Neighbors
Edition: Final
Page: 6AV
PAIR OF STATE-OF-THE-ART SCHOOLS PLANNED TIM HENDERSON, thenderson@herald.com

In the coming years, two new high schools soon will be in competition for North Miami students.

Plans for the two schools, one a 1,600-student charter school run by the city, and the other a 3,600-student public high school to replace the aging North Miami Senior High, were unveiled at an informational meeting March 26 hosted by City Council member Jacques Despinosse. The charter school, part of an agreement for the Biscayne Landing project, is the first scheduled to open to students, in August 2006. North Miami residents will get first crack at being among the 800 students in the first ninth and 10th grade classes, and enrollment will expand to 1,600 over the next two years, Deputy City Manager Dennis Kelly said.

Academica Corp. will be hired to run the school, Kelly said, but the principal will be a city employee, and a nine-member governing board will oversee it. Swerdlow/Boca Developers is working on preliminary drawings, and will contribute up to $18 million in educational impact fees for the project.

The public high school will start construction in 2006 and should be finished two years later, said Josť Murguido, of the Zyscovich architectural firm. Zyscovich was hired by the county school board to design and manage construction of the $71.5 million school for a fee of $3.2 million.

Among the planned amenities are state-of-the-art science, media and computer labs, a full-service health clinic, theater, gymnasium and a cafeteria with a dozen stations designed to get everyone served within 10 minutes.

``It's a concept kids are very, very familiar with, which is the mall food court,'' said Murguido.

Classes at the high school, built in 1951, will continue uninterrupted as the new school is built on the west end of the 17-acre property, where a baseball field and temporary classrooms are now located. When the building is finished, the old school will be torn down to make way for a new stadium.

The district wants to prove that it can build new schools efficiently, Deputy Schools Superintendent Irving Hamer said. The district will need to raise taxes, through a bond issue or some other means, to finish the work but hope to show residents a trouble-free start.

``It'll be obvious if we succeed,'' Hamer said. ``In two years you'll see a building on 135th Street, or you won't.''

In the recent past, school construction in Miami-Dade has been dogged by delays, escalating costs and poor quality, as demonstrated by a Herald series last year.

Mayoral candidate Kevin Burns asked if any of the same contractors who were responsible for poor construction of schools built earlier would be rewarded with contracts. Hamer replied that the district may have to use some of the same contractors, but plans to get better results than earlier administrations.

``As soon as you turn your back on these people they will put an inferior product in,'' Hamer said. ``You can't sign a contract and go sip tea.''

Council member Jean Monestime, also a candidate for mayor, said the school may fill up quickly since the current enrollment is about 3,100 and the new school is designed to house a little more than 3,600.

``The city of North Miami is seemingly getting younger. What is our plan for growth?'' Monestime asked. Hamer replied that the district is doing ``all we can do'' with the available land.

Resident Joy Levy, who lives near the school, said students park in the neighborhood and leave a lot of trash behind.

Murguido, the architect, said a parking garage on school grounds should cut down on that.

``There will be more parking so children will not have to be parking throughout the community and dropping their Coke cans,'' he said.