The construction and changes occurring within MAST have rendered the school unrecognizable to those who have been part of the Mako family since before construction began. The abundant native vegetation and natural ambiance that characterized our school have been replaced by grey concrete and hard-hat zones.
Treasured MAST artifacts such as the bell and chamber and solar panels that used to stand proudly in the front of the school have been swept under the dust of construction.
The Beacon set out to clear some of this dust and ascertain the whereabouts of these beloved MAST artifacts. What we found was troubling.
The original solar fountain was built by four students in 2001 as a project through Science Teacher Wafa Khalil’s solar energy class. More was added on in the following years, including native vegetation planted by students, parents, and teachers in 2011.
The bell and chamber were first used commercially but were eventually used for educational purposes in a program founded by Scott Carpenter, one of the original seven astronauts on NASA’s Project Mercury mission in April 1959.
The bell and chamber were in Key Largo when Outreach Teacher Mark Tohulka worked with the program as an aquanaut.
When the program ended, Tohulka made appeals to an administrator named Larry Feldman to have the bell and chamber moved to the MAST Academy campus instead of being used for scrap metal.
In 2001, Feldman, then region superintendent, helped acquire the funds for the bell and chamber to be moved to MAST to be used as a teaching tool.
“The majority of those were plants that were done one weekend in 2011 on a very cold, rainy, January morning. I was part of the planting crew led by Khalil and they just ended up mulch,” Lead teacher Margaret Haun said.
These structures wove themselves into the very ethos of MAST Academy, testaments to the spirit and atmosphere of our school.
Here comes the troubling part of our tale.
The native vegetation has been torn out and thrown away, the bell and chamber have been ham-handedly tossed to the side, and the solar fountain has been demolished.
The solar panels, which used to provide a significant portion of the schools’ energy needs, have been removed.
Our investigation revealed some worrying facts. None of the teachers and administrators we questioned knew for certain what became of the solar panels.
Principal Josephine Otero told us the solar had panels had been moved behind the engineering room for storage at her request.
When we checked behind the engineering room to corroborate this story, there was no sign of the panels. Mathematics teacher Dana Yancoskie believed the panels had most likely been sold or scrapped. Outreach Teacher Mark Tohulka, lead teacher Margaret Haun, custodian Leon Greenwald—no one had an inkling of what became of the solar panels.
We continued to question and prod until finally we learned of the panels’ fate. Art teacher Craig Kirk found the panels behind the chamber in front of the school. The panels were dusty and vulnerable to damage, but found nonetheless.