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This fall, a new charter school will open in the spot that housed the former St.

Monica Catholic School, expecting to enroll about 80 students.

Excelsior Academy at St.

Monica will specialize in Spanish and three R's themed in character education: respect, responsibility and readiness to learn.


Monica Catholic School, which closed in 2008, was the first of eight schools shut down by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Miami.

The new school will reopen as a charter school.

It was a cost increase in employees' health benefits and liability insurance, coupled with a decline in enrollment, that led the archdiocese to close the schools, said spokeswoman Mary Ross Agosta.

``The decision was no longer to provide the financial support.

It was a sizable amount and it was increasing each year,'' said Agosta.


Monica received subsidies of about $3 million over seven years, including $315,000 for the year that it closed.

``Putting in about $300,000 per school is not possible in today's economy,'' said Agosta.

``We hope the new charter school is an asset to the community.'' Located in Miami Gardens, the school will teach kindergarten through fifth grade.

A spot for sixth graders will be added next year, school officials said.

The school's initial budget is roughly $1.5 million.

And the school will pay out $105,000 yearly to St.

Monica parish for leasing space.

The state pays out $6,120 a year per student to charter schools.

The church will still be able to use the facilities to teach religion after school hours and to hold religious services on the weekend, said Agosta.

The school opening will bring at least 30 new jobs.

School officials are hiring 12 teachers, a principal, an administrator, two assistant, a part-time custodian, cafeteria staff and a cleaning crew, according to Alicia Rodriguez Bower, a consultant to Excelsior.

Some extracurricular activities that might be offered include cheerleading, arts and crafts, and clubs for Spanish, books and science.

Physical education will be offered, but there will be no team sports.

Charter schools provide competition with both public and private schools, said Claudia Trilles, chairwoman for the Board of Directors of Excelsior Academies Inc., a nonprofit.

She believes money spent on charter schools is a smart way to spend taxpayer dollars to better serve pupils.

``It opens a market -- now we all have to fight for the children; charter schools want them and public ones don't want to lose them,'' said Trilles.

Ruben Lafond, who lives in North Miami Beach, prefers charter schools over public schools, and his two children will attend the new school in the fall.

Last year, his children -- Zacharias and Abigail -- were enrolled in Pentab Academy, a Christian school in Miami, with aid of a Florida Pride Scholarship.

Tuition at the school was $800 per month for both children.

Zacharias, 7, was in gifted classes last year.

His sister Abigail, 6, also tested gifted.

However, the family lost the grant after some changes in the household.

First, his mother-in-law moved out, reducing the family size to four.

And although his wife Roudia was recently laid off, a raise he received helped disqualify the family.

``I wanted to make the sacrifice, but it was almost impossible.

It is too tough,'' he said Lafond.

Both children are now enrolled in Excelsior Academy at St.

Monica and ready to start the school year in white, read, and blue uniforms.
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