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News from the School Board - June 25, 2024

School board

School Board Meeting includes discussion of construction projects and affordable housing

The Monroe County School Board held their regular business meeting Tuesday and, among the items discussed at the meeting, they heard from Pat Lefere, the Executive Director of Operations and Planning, who gave an update on district building and construction projects and the Superintendent of Schools Theresa Axford and Gaelen Jones, the Director of Internal Services on their progress in regards to Affordable Housing for teachers.

Tommy Robers Memorial Stadium / Rex Weech Field Project

Lefere talked about the final steps being taken to put the finishing touches on the Tommy Roberts Stadium / Rex Weech Field project on Kennedy Drive in Key West. The project is, Lefere said, complete aside from a few small items left to finish.

Board Members met earlier in the day for a retreat at which they discussed the final phase of the Rex Weech Baseball field. This final phase includes the concession stand and restroom facilities. At the retreat, it was decided that a committee made up of administrators, coaches and other stakeholders in the athletic complex would begin working on a plan for this next phase of the project. Having stakeholders involved who know what is needed for this crucial part of the project will ensure the facility is designed and built to the needs of those who will use it. The board has set aside funds for this and the planning process will begin as soon as possible.

Key Largo School Athletic Fields

At the regular meeting, board members also voted unanimously to approve the improvement project planned for the athletic fields at Key Largo School. Applause broke out in the audience after the vote. During the community input portion of the meeting, Anna Askins - a teacher at Key Largo School and the manager of the school’s Baseball Program, spoke about the great need for this project due to the lack of adequate athletic facilities for kids in the Upper Keys. She talked about how these improved facilities will benefit all of the schools in that area. 

Affordable Housing for Teachers

Superintendent Axford and Jones gave a report to the board on the Affordable Housing project moving forward on the Truman Waterfront property in Key West, where the School District Administrative Office are now located. The superintendent gave the board an overview of the four years it has taken to get the project off the ground; she and board members have made numerous trips to Tallahassee to speak with law-makers about funding for the project, and to educate them on the crucial issue of affordable housing in the Florida Keys and how the lack of it has a drastic effect on the district’s ability to find qualified and quality employees.

The complex plan includes building 150 units of housing which educators will be given preference to lease, followed by other district employees. The district will provide the land for the project, but there will be no tax dollars involved in the construction. One of the unique things about the project includes the public/private partnership involved. The construction will be funded privately by Integra Solutions, a Real Estate Development company based in Miami.

Jones gave a detailed Powerpoint presentation to board members, outlining next steps, which will include finalizing the agreement with Integra Solutions, specific designs and architectural drawings of the project and other amenities like recreational areas on the property, followed by the permitting and approval process. He said he tentatively expects the actual groundbreaking and construction to begin in spring of 2026.

During the final phases of the project, after the construction of the housing itself is complete, the Administration Offices currently located on the property will be moved. Another aspect of the overall plan has been to find funding to renovate the historic Bruce Hall on United Street in Key West so administrative offices can move to that location. Superintendent Axford and Jones told the School Board that the district is “short-listed” to receive funding from the state in the next legislative session. Both were very hopeful that a portion of the necessary funding would be forthcoming at that time. In the meantime, they are exploring other funding possibilities as well.

Other issues before the board

During Board Member reports, Board Chair Dr. Sue Woltanski talked about continuing changes to how the State of Florida grades its schools. There have been multiple changes to the metrics used for school grades of the past few years with more changes slated to happen in the coming school year; she said this makes it very difficult to compare how schools are doing from year to year.

Action items on the board agenda included approval of the new salary schedule for employees for the school year 2024-2025; approval of the Safe Schools contracts with the Key West Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office; the choice of Ajax Construction Company for the Key Largo Athletic Field improvement project; and approval of the Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium/Rex Weech Field Project closeout.

All School Board Meetings are broadcast live on the Monroe County School District’s website; meetings are also archived and available for public review at