Mater Lakes Academy middle and high school hopes to welcome about 1,000 additional students and expand its campus with a new building for grades 6 – 8 within the next 18 months.
The Miami-Dade County Commission approved in September a zoning application for the estimated $15 million project on 5.27 vacant acres along Northwest 170th Street.
“We need the expansion, the demand is there,” said Principal Rene Rovirosa of Mater Lakes Academy. “Our school programs are increasing, and we need the extra space.”
There are currently 2,100 students enrolled in grades 6 through 12, and there is a waiting list of 750, the school said.
The academy is a tuition-free public charter school at 17300 NW 87th Ave. in unincorporated Miami-Dade County.
It is in a residential neighborhood, bordered by Northwest 87th Avenue and Northwest 170th Street.
The proposed three-story building is called Mater Lakes South Campus.
The school is run by Mater Academy, Inc., a nonprofit organization that operates 30 charter schools throughout Florida and Nevada.
Prior to the 10-1 vote by commissioners, county zoning staff studied projected changes to traffic patterns after more students will begin attending the school.
It found there would be 204 afternoon peak hour trips through school speed zones, and the impact was considered “nominal” to area streets.
Northwest 170th Street would see the most traffic, especially if the bridge to Hialeah that spans Interstate 75 is opened, the county said.
Grades may follow staggered schedules, allowing students to arrive to campus and leave at different times, according to application documents.
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava was the sole vote against the expansion.
“Unfortunately, nobody could answer my questions about the impact of traffic on the neighborhood, a primary consideration for any project of this magnitude with so many additional students and all the vehicles overrunning these streets twice per day,” Cava told The Miami Laker in October.
New Dawn Church/Iglesia Nuevo Amanecer is next door and has a pending sale of 16,000 square feet of land where a covered walkway will be built to link the new building to the existing school campus.
“As long-standing friends and neighbors of Mater Lakes Academy, we are enthusiastic about their expansion,” Pastor Danny Leidy said. “This will provide more opportunities for our community to be part of an exceptional education program.”
Leidy said on Oct. 29 that as the land was not yet sold, he could not share the price.
The next step for the school is to pull construction permits, according to the county.
The school is allowed a maximum 3,300 students.