norland-high-potest_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

MIAMI GARDENS — A coalition of Miami-Dade County residents and community leaders is demanding that the school district launch a program of extensive reconstruction of Miami Norland Senior High School.

Miami-Dade County Public Schools has spent no money to renovate the school building in more than 30 years, according to Miami Gardens City Councilman André Williams.

“If you look around the school (you will see) we need absolute re-investment to rebuild the actual building itself because it’s decrepit and dilapidated,” said Williams, who was one of the main organizers of the rally at the school on Monday. “There are school infrastructure needs throughout South Florida  but Norland is the most serious.”

State Sen. Oscar Braynon was also among those taking part in the demonstration.

The school at 1050 NW 195th St., Miami Gardens, opened its doors in 1958.

On entering the school, said Karen Aronowitz, United Teachers of Dade president, “you are hit with a smell of mold and mildew. This can cause health problems. If students are out because of illness they can’t learn what they are supposed to learn.”

The Miami Gardens’ neighborhood needs a new school building, said Aronowitz. “The same new facility has been promised for years — not for five or 10, but beyond that. Yet we are still here.”

Aronowitz was speaking during a rally at Norland High in support of the President Barack Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act which puts some focus on infrastructure repairs around the nation.

One Miami, a jobs-focused community group, organized the rally. Spokesman Jose Suarez said the group planned to hold the demonstration in the school but the lighting was not adequate so it took place outside.

The rally highlighted Norland as one of the community’s schools in desperate need of renovations.

It attracted about 50 people who chanted, “We want jobs — good jobs.”

Obama’s jobs program will provide about $25 billion for almost 35,000 schools across the country, with about $108 million coming to Miami-Dade County, Williams said.

“Norland will be in line for a lot of that money down the road but it should be at the top of the list because it needs more infrastructure [upgrade] than any [other] school in Miami-Dade County,” he said.

The exact figures to rebuild Norland have not yet been determined, Williams said.

Williams said Republicans in Congress and Gov. Rick Scott will oppose the Obama plan, “so we need to create some wherewithal within the people to make this happen. That’s why this event is so important. If we create a grassroots movement in support of this jobs bill, then we can move mounds at the end of the day.”

Willie B. Hammonds of Liberty City said that she wants the children attending Norland High to “have a chance at a good education in a safe environment, without worrying whether the roof will cave in when it rains. It’s not safe right now and it should be.”

Hammonds said when her grandchildren attended Norland, there were reports that the roof caved in from the rain. “It’s been this way for years; this school needs work.  That’s why I’m here today.”

Gregory Mondestin of North Miami added that attending Norland “is a hazard.”

“The gymnasium is filthy; the facility isn’t fit for kids to learn. Something needs to be done; the building really needs to be inspected,” Mondestin said.

Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net

Photo: JAMES FORBES/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES

SIGNS OF THE TIMES: Residents hold signs during a rally at Miami Norland Senior High School in Miami Gardens on Monday calling for extensive repairs or replacement of the school.