• Superintendent's Writing Challenge 

    Anne Frank Quote about writing This contest, for students grades 3 - 12, will take place monthly until the end of the school year. Prizes are: $50 for the winner and $25 each for the runners-up. Entries must be in by the last day of the month.



    Superintendent's Writing Challenge topic for April: Does social media negatively impact our lives?

    Winner: Maya Hart, 8th Grade, Sigsbee School

    Maya Hart“From cyberbullying to having a feeling of inadequacy about one’s appearance and life to worsening social skills, it is very obvious that social media is harmful. As well as all of these different reasons on why social media is detrimental to everyone, there are many others, such as how it makes you unmotivated, wastes time, is dangerous and more. People should lessen their use of social media in order to avoid all of these effects.”


    Kevin NguyenRunner Up: Kevin Nguyen, 8th Grade, Sigsbee School

    Social media has made a place where people can express their opinions about different subjects. Social media has given people opportunities to chase their dreams. I feel that people should cherish social media because it has impacted the world crucially. Social media is good, because it has helped keep people together, it has allowed people to express their mind and it has informed people of natural disasters.”

    Harper Isabella FrancisRunner up: Harper Isabella Francis, 3rd Grade, Poinciana School

    “I think social media is bad for students because it can be very inappropriate for younger kids. People can post whatever they want and when they do everyone can see it including younger children. No one can control what other people post on social media.”


    Superintendent’s Writing Challenge topic for March: Are video games bad for students?

    Taylor RothrockWinner: Taylor Rothrock, 7th grade, Key Largo School

    Note: Taylor wrote a very impressively researched and documented five-page essay to which this excerpt certainly does not do justice. Great job, Taylor! “Although many people criticize video games for causing negative effects on children, the positive effects outweigh the negative effects and actually benefit children greatly. Specifically, video games help students to socialize and focus more, allow professionals to train through simulations and can even treat mental illnesses.”

    Jack BridgerRunner-Up Jack Bridger, 6th grade, Horace O’Bryant School

    Note: Jack wrote an energetic essay arguing both sides of video games, both positive and negative His conclusion: “In a nutshell, video games aren’t bad! The positive factors of improving strengths, Increase in body coordination, as well as a controlled sleep schedule are profoundly good for us gamer aficionados! So what are you waiting for?! Go out there and play those games. Remember not to play too long, though, or the video games will be the ones shutting you down!”

    Elizabeth CaputoRunner-Up Elizabeth Capote, 3rd grade, Plantation Key School

    Elizabeth appears to be a huge fan of video games, and sees many benefits to playing them. She writes, in part, “Therefore, video games are good for kids. They promote teamwork, some games help you become a doctor and some games promote exercise. Even our principal, Mrs. Taylor, agrees. She states, ‘As long as you are responsible with your time, it is fine.’”


     Others excerpt from the contest included:

    Michaela Kevalova, 10th grade, Key West High School

    “Students spend too much time playing games leading them to not have time to do any schoolwork or chores. It can also cause you to lack study time which can then lead to poor academic performance. They can also cause lack of sleep which then causes students to pay less attention and sometimes even fall asleep in class.”

    Natalie Cortez, 8th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Sometimes video games could be a way to relax and calm stress and negative thoughts or just to unwind and get away from reality. I do have moments where I’m not at my best so I get on some of my favorite games and enjoy the rest of my day in peace”

    Superintendent’s Writing Challenge Topic for February: What new traditions or customs may occur as the result of Covid-19?

    Winner: Ava Swanson, 12th grade, Coral Shores High School

    Ava Swanson “What I learned from this experience is that you don’t need phones and Wi-fi or social media to keep you sane. All you need is a good group of friends and an outgoing mindset...At times, I’ll walk into my own home feeling awkward without a mask on my face...Due to everyone wearing a mask, I have learned to look at people’s eyes more and to smile with my eyes to people I pass when walking through the store...It’s been an extremely difficult year, but a year to grow as a better human being…”

    Runner Up: Allison Helms, 6th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    Allison Helms Excerpt from her poem:

    “Hand sanitizer is the new style
    So make sure to grab a pile.”


     Runner Up: Layne Smith, 7th grade, Treasure Village Montessori

    Layne Smith “I have had to spend so much more time with my family, which I think has really changed our relationships for the better. Of course, our dog is happier now because we are all home so much. I have had more time to focus on schoolwork. And I finish my homework quickly now, instead of waiting until the last minute.”



    Other notable submissions:

    Emily Puchuaranga, 8th grade, HOB

    “Since the pandemic started, my mother and I have tried to do something outside of the house.  For example, last month we walked along the beach and awed as we saw sharks, stingrays, slugs, and many incredible creatures.”

    Caden Pitcher, 6th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “During the Covid-19 pandemic it has been hard for local businesses to stay open so at least once a week we get takeout or delivery. This way not only are we keeping that restaurant open but also our town’s economy.”

    Sierra Shifflett, 7th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “People are always saying, ‘we are all in this together’ but if we were all in this together, then why is the world more divided now than it has been since slavery?”

    Ricky Nichols, 7th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Since the covid, we have had to wear masks and have less days in school. But since covid we have more time with our loved ones and to get to know each other better like I found out that my brother likes to have fun with me.”

    Nicole Corbin, 12th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “When future generations look back on the 2020s there’s one item of clothing that will certainly stand out: the mask!”

    Cullen Coleman-sayer, 6th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Roses are red, 
    ‘Rona’ makes you blue,
    I wear a mask,
    And you should too.”

    Caris Jimenez, 8th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Some people may gather their families on the anniversary of the first day of quarantine to show how grateful they are to be able to see their families without worry of spreading the virus to anyone.”

    Tyler Garcia, 9th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Mental health training such as meditation and speaking with a therapist or mentor can be an essential tradition because it keeps us mentally strong, makes us feel that we can make it through obstacles whether it be in our personal life, in a competition, or worldwide (for example, this pandemic) keep us sane, and make us feel optimistic for the future.”

    Mikkel Ross, 9th grade, Marathon Middle/High School

    “Covid has not only impacted mental health, but has changed the ‘norm’ or the customs and the way we live on a day to day basis. The pandemic has added an addition to our wardrobe, socially distancing, and the way students go to school.”

    Savannah Hettinger, 9th grade, Key West High School

    “Covid has brought about many temporary and permanent changes to our lives: limiting how many people can be in a place, new ways of greeting people, and using Zoom to interact with people. This virus has made our world a different place.”

    Logan Garry, 9th grade,   Key West High School

    “The Coronavirus has changed everything, even how we celebrate holidays...large scale gatherings have been banned, cultures have had their greetings limited, and people are using Facetime to communicate with each other during holidays.”

    Jenesis Perloff, 10th grade, Key West High School

    “Personally, my life this past year had felt like a fever dream I can’t wake up from...It has given me time to reflect and learn about myself to an extent I never would have...shared trauma brings people together and helps us find where we are meant to be in the end.”

    Miles Murphy, 3rd grade, Stanley Switlik School

    “Friday nights are a little different at my house. My dad and I go fishing for our dinner. We try to catch mangrove snapper and yellowtail...Movie theaters are closed so we had to make a new tradition. Every Saturday, I watch an NBA game on my outdoor projector and eat s’mores with my family. After the game, we invite our friends over and play hide-and-seek, tag and Man Hunt until midnight.”

    Holli Keeney, 3rd grade, Stanley Switlik School

    “Birthdays and Christmas have changed due to Covid-19….Instead of having one big birthday party, I got to have three little ones. Instead of having one big Christmas, I got to have three. This is a kid’s dream come true!...I have been spending more time with both my grandparents, my aunt and my baby cousin. We bake cookies, watch movies and play Jenga and Candyland...I go outside a lot more. My brother and I blow bubbles, play tag, and throw Frisbees.”

    Ariella Dwormiczak, 4th grade, Stanley Switlik School

    “Three of my favorites are drive-by birthdays, walking and baking….My little sister couldn’t have a party due to Covid -19 but she had a surprise drive-by party and was really happy...People decorated their car and let balloons fly out of their cars. Drive-by birthdays are really fun...walking is a good way of getting air... I couldn’t ever bake because I didn’t know how but because of this pandemic I learned. Baking is really fun.”

    Gabby Gutierrez, 6th grade, Treasure Village Montessori

    “Even though COVID is very stressful, good things also came out of it like more family time and being grateful for what you have.”

    Yemcel Moreno, 8th grade, Plantation Key School

    “Parades for birthdays, google meets with family, going outside to play baseball with dad, and making breakfast, s’mores and cookies at home are some of the new traditions that make up for the bad things that come along with COVID-19.”


    Superintendent's Writing Topic for January: What can you do to prevent stress from Covid-19?

    These are excerpts from a number of the essays submitted for January's challenge:

    Winner: Neslo Atilla, 8th grade, Sigsbee School

    Neslo Atilla “There are a thousand hobbies that you can do from the comfort of your own home. Teach yourself to knit or crochet. Learn to bake. Start a book club. Take a yoga class. There is a reason everyone has been trying new things during the pandemic, and that is because learning something, even if you’re not immediately good at it, is an instant source of joy….And who knows: you might discover a hidden talent for baking, knitting or anything else you choose to try.” 



    Runner-up: Jeremiah Ortiz, 6th Grade, Plantation Key School

    Jeremiah Ortiz “...there are many things to help prevent and relieve stress during Covid-19. You can take some time to work out and get some exercise, or grow a garden...the best way to prevent stress is to go to your phone, computer, tablet and turn them off...social media only focuses on the negative things... This will all be over soon. Remember to wear a mask and stay socially distant. We are all in this together!”



     Runner-up: Hanna Gilmartin, 5th Grade, Poinciana School

    Hannah Gilmartin “If the breaking news gets too overwhelming take a break. You could do something as simple as walking your dog or reading a book. Being tranquil makes you feel relaxed and positive...it is very important to keep your spirit up. If you don’t believe in light at the end of the tunnel your thoughts will turn negative and find ways to go against you….You can choose if you want to be positive or negative. It is entirely up to you. I would prefer to be positive because I have hope and positive belief in my future.”


    Other notable submissions:

    Jillian Schafstall, 7th Grade, Plantation Key School -

    “Covid-19 has caused many problems for people these days, but you just have to make the best of it. Do what you love.”

    Alaric Rodriguez, 7th Grade, Plantation Key School -

    Excerpt from a limerick poem: “Spend quality time with those near and dear, in order to subdue the fear… in order to vanquish the stress, you could read, run, and give it a rest.”

    Rachel Rusch, 8th Grade, Treasure Village Montessori -

    “One mentally hard thing was the fear from not knowing. One way I dealt with this mental questioning was learning something. I took up Spanish and the learning from that helped take my mind off the thought of the Pandemic and to something I could avidly pursue.”

    Elizabeth Giordano, 8th Grade, Treasure Village Montessori - 

    “During the Pandemic, I started to discover how much I enjoy painting. It was a way for me to be inspired, imaginative, and in control in the midst of an unpredictable time...If we were all capable of making it through this past year, we can make it through pretty much anything!”

    Julia Rusch, 6th Grade, Treasure Village Montessori -

    “The last thing that I’ve realized just now is that it helps to write it down. When you spill your heart out on paper, it just feels like a giant weight lifted off your shoulders.”

    Zachary Antonelli, 8th grade, Treasure Village Montessori - 

    “I played some piano and felt inspired by some music I listened to. This inspiration developed into a new hobby. Soon enough, I had a new music production hobby. Now I love making music. What I am trying to get at is that we are all going through stressful times and that there are ways to cope with the enormous amount of stress. And it could be an opportunity to find something new you love doing.”

    Annabella Cowan, 6th Grade, Sugarloaf School -

    “… it is important not to stress.  Stressing out does not do anyone good.  Just do the things that you like to do the best.  Exercise, video call with family and friends, do yoga, or even play with your pets.  Remember, this situation will not last forever. We will have brighter days ahead.”

    Sutton Sayer, 3rd Grade, Stanley Switlik School -

    “Every morning at about 6:30 a.m. my mom, sister and I take my dog, Summer, for a walk. It takes my mind off of Covid-19 stress because not only do I get to spend time with my dog but I also get to see the beautiful sunrise. The purples, yellows, oranges and pinks in the sky make me excited to start the day. It’s a great way to start your day!”

    Rebecca Merryman, 4th grade, Stanley Switlik School -

    “One way to prevent stress of Covid-19 is to enjoy the scenery. Go to a public park. Going to a park would help with relaxing because you don’t have to wear a mask and you’re enjoying the elements of nature. Another way to enjoy the scenery is to just sit on a bench outside and soak up the sun. Florida is a beautiful state, it’s nice to sit and enjoy it!”

    Teresa Sewell, 9th Grade, Key West High School -

    “This is when I found my love for reading. During the pandemic I finished 7 chapter books….When I am reading a book, I am able to forget what is happening in the world at the time. I would be able to get this amazing breath of fresh air that many people couldn’t get.”

    Ammar Bello-Assabati, 9th grade, Key West High School -

    “Another way that I personally have been dealing with the pandemis is by working on my creative writing. I let my mind wander into an imaginative world and I feel free. I could travel anywhere and do anything on a piece of paper.”

    Angela Quiche-Ochoa, 7th Grade, Horace O’Bryant School -

    “I get bored REALLY easy so I found new hobbies...I learn to cook with special recipes, take photos of nature, play basketball often and make arts and crafts. I enjoy these things during my free time and feel like doing these activities make me happy and unique.”

    Liam Fettis, 7th grade, Horace O’Bryant School -

    “The best way you can keep yourself from going insane in these trying times is to simply stay positive.  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “this too, shall pass.”  The virus can’t and won’t last forever.”

    Bailey Zepeda, 3rd grade, Key Largo School -

    “It is important to get a lot of sleep. Rest is important because you might notice it is harder to concentrate as easily without sleep. Doing fun activities and exercising is something you can do and you can look forward to things like family game night. I know I enjoy game night at my house. We play monopoly or trouble or trivial pursuit.”

    Kiersten Tate, 4th grade, Sigsbee School -

    “If you’re stressed you can scream in a pillow. It will get your screams out…..Smile at someone who is passing by.”

    Beyza Atilla, 4th grade, Sigsbee School -

    “Smile at people and they won’t be stressed and neither will you.”

    Ashlyn Picco, 5th Grade, Sigsbee School -

    “Some things that have helped me are weekly board games with my family and zoom calls. And thinking about the future. Once we have all received the vaccine, that will be the greatest stress reliever of all!”

    Valentina Williams, 5th grade, Sigsbee School -

    “Look around, the grass is cold, the birds chirp without a care in the world, the wind carries the leaves to a new adventure. When you look around, try to find the glow in everything and how the sun’s rays bounce off nature.”

    Norah Bonskey, 7th Grade, Sigsbee School -

    “Boredom and stress pile up like neglected laundry and unfortunately the washing machine is locked inside a bank vault. Cleaning up the stress is easier when you have the keys to the vault: entertainment, socialization and exercise.”