By Larisa Svechin, Mayor
(Friday, March 3, 2023) – Each day more and more families are choosing South Florida as a new permanent home. Sunny Isles Beach is the most desirable location for settling down, for numerous reasons. Our school is a top reason many young families move here. It is also the most overcrowded K-8 in Miami-Dade County.
Like many, I myself moved back to Sunny Isles Beach once my husband and I started thinking about schools for the kids. Back when NSE SIB K-8 was built in 2008, there was a fear that the city did not have enough students to fill the building. By 2010, the school was already over capacity. The argument has always been that “out of district” students were being registered to attend. Actually, in the schools founding, students from Ojus Elementary were encouraged to attend and Eastern Shores was part of our boundary. The teachers from Ojus were heavily recruited. Children of teachers and city staff were allowed to register. The founding principal was fiercely competitive and knew that an A school needed talented teachers, as well as the highest scoring students. Therefore, she curated the school to exceed those standards. We were an A school instantly. And so, the registration continued, sometimes at a rate of 20 new students per day.
When I was first elected in 2016, I knew this was a growing problem that required immediate control measures. But the school does not belong to our city; it is governed by the Miami Dade County Public School (MDCPS) system. So, the only option was to force their hand. In October 2017 I wrote an article in this publication about the city’s solution to this problem of overcrowding—strict address verification. That process began at that time and worked – somewhat. Fast forward to today, five years later, and the overcrowding has mushroomed. An excerpt from that 2017 article holds true today:
“While we love visitors who enjoy the beach, local restaurants, hotels, and City events, our school is for SIB kids first. Our children deserve classrooms that are not overcrowded, aftercare and sports programs that are not sold out, and resources that are not overextended.”
History tells us that the school will continue to be overcrowded unless drastic measures are taken. I, along with the Commissioners, parents, and neighbors, have been fervently working with MDCPS to alleviate the overcrowding. But before you know where to start you need to assess the options and pick the one with the highest return on your efforts. The district took a radical measure to immediately cap the school, which means that except for incoming kindergarteners, no other students may register for this school year. Further, they have begun checking every single address associated with each student. This means each family must bring in person proof of Sunny Isles Beach residence. I ask for residents to cooperate and be patient, as this is for the benefit of all. The idea is that those who have moved since registering, and those who registered using an address where they do not live, withdraw and register at their home schools. Further innovative measures are being discussed and will be implemented soon.
The goal is that with the start of the 2023-2024 school year, ONLY Sunny Isles Beach residents are attending the school this city has invested so heavily in. This true count will be noticeable to all residents and businesses, not just families. Success will mean: less traffic during school drop off, less congestion at Publix, and less back up at the RK plazas. Most importantly, our school returns to the vision of the founders, the late Dr. Weissman, Honorable Norman Edelcup, and many others who helped build our community school. Once again, class sizes will be limited as required, teachers will have a lesser load, hallways will be safer, bathrooms cleaner, talented teachers will return, and students will once again be proud of calling NSE SIB K-8 their school.
I look forward to meeting with anyone who has questions or suggestions.