Susin pushes for middle school in Viera, rejects rezoning plan


Matt Susin, who represents District 4 on the Brevard Public School Board of Education, is fighting to build a middle school in Viera.

VIERA VOICE Jill Blue Gaines

The Brevard Public School District’s plan to rezone schools in the Viera/Suntree area has sparked concerns among residents and School Board member Matt Susin.

He planned to oppose the plan at the Oct. 24 school board meeting and push for building a middle school in Viera, which he says will alleviate overcrowding at elementary schools districtwide.

That’s because the District 4 representative’s plan would also include moving sixth grade from the elementary schools to the middle school level countywide.

“We are only one of two districts — out of 67 in the state of Florida — that have sixth grade in elementary school,” Susin said. “We have an abundance of kids in our elementary schools.

“If we take sixth grade and move it to the middle schools, all of a sudden, every school that we have that’s under capacity comes up to capacity in middle school. And all of a sudden our elementary schools that are bursting at the seams will go back to normal capacity.”

Susin cited Titusville as an example, where Oak Park Elementary School is “bursting at the seams” while Madison Middle School and Jackson Middle School are under capacity. He also referred to DeLaura Middle School, which could benefit from the addition of beachside students, while also eliminating a costly busing situation.

There currently are nine buses taking students from Viera to DeLaura at a cost of $55,000 per bus and $3.10 a mile. Students are bused approximately 45,000 miles each school year, or nearly twice the circumference of the earth.

The estimate for the cost of a new school would be $32 million, with $22 million already available from impact fees. Susin said there is $50 million in the annual contingency budget — usually reserved for rainy day emergencies — plus a surplus in the district’s health care and food surplus accounts.

“It’s there,” he said of the money to build a middle school. “It’s a matter of tightening up our belt and being able to possibly go into the reserves to build it.

“At no time will we go into debt to build the school. We can build the school without debt.”

On the subject of rezoning, Susin is opposed to moving 165 students in the Springs of Suntree and San Marino developments from Quest, an “A” school, to Ralph Williams, a “B” school. He referred to seven university studies he found that show property values drop when schools are rezoned from high performing schools to less performing schools. Susin also worried about the potential social and emotional impact of having students switch schools.

John Meikle, a Viera resident for nearly four years and director of supply management for the Sierra Nevada Corporation, said parents moving to Brevard specifically choose to buy their home because of the location of a school.

“It’s certainly something that really causes unbelievable amounts of discouragement and concern with the parents,” Meikle said. “It’s a bit of a slap in the face for all the work that these parents do to go to specific schools, regardless the reason.

“At the end of the day, they chose that location. The school district, I believe the right approach is to honor that, and then work with the parents to help find a way forward to either change the constraints or work together to … find another solution.”