Affordable housing for teachers in Monroe County is getting closer

Theresa Axford, superintendent for the Monroe County School District, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about what’s going on in the schools.

The Trumbo housing selection committee is meeting soon and the project is moving forward.

Axford said, “We turned away 30 teachers this year, 30 qualified teachers ready to go into the classroom, because they couldn’t find a place to live. So, for us, the issue of teacher housing is eminent. It’s something that we deal with every single day. So we’ve put in at least three years now, trying to get this housing at Trumbo Point moving and the step was getting 150 BPAS units from the city, so that we could actually build the housing. Many thanks to the commissioners, the mayor, for all of their support in helping us get those BPAS units. We did an RFP in August and we advertise for 60 days, and that closed on October 25. So we have three companies who are interested in building affordable housing here on Trumbo Point. We’re so pleased that they’ve been able to submit proposals to us.”

A committee is looking at those proposals today.

Axford said, “They’ll conduct interviews if they need to, and other things, to be able to make a recommendation to the school board. The school board will then make a decision going forward about how we should proceed. So it’s getting closer. Every step closer makes my heart sing a little bit because I just know that the problem isn’t going away and we need to address it.”

How is the funding for the project going?

Axford said, “The fact is that in these RFPs, we have specified that we will give extra points to the companies that can make this happen without any additional financial burden to the district. So of course, the school district would be providing the property and it would be a lease kind of thing, but it’s for nominal amounts. The school board is not interested in making money off the property. They want to get this housing done. So these companies are proposing to work without any financial burden on the school district.”

The Key West High School Band will be making their way to London for New Year’s Day and fundraisers have been helpful.

Axford said, “It’s kind of the way our community works, which makes me so thrilled to be a resident in the Keys. This is a legendary opportunity for these students, so it’s just been an all out effort to make sure that they get there safely. Getting the instruments over there safely is much more complicated than one would think. Have you seen the uniforms, those beautiful hats with the feathers? Isla Bella has donated $20,000 to the trip and they’re just one of many folks. That is significant and it’s really, really making a difference here at the end.”

Monroe County School District works hard on Veterans Day to make sure the students understand what the day means.

Axford said, “We are doing our celebrations on November 9. So I can’t wait to go to Stanley Switlik School. They have a humongous celebration for veterans and first responders. It’s just amazing. But throughout the district, if everyone goes on their school website, they’re going to see commemorations at every building for Veterans Day. The school district is going to be represented in the parade down here in Key West with the big yellow bus all decorated and Monroe County School Board members marching in the parade. I think our partnership with the military is outstanding. It’s just great to live in a community where we can instill these kinds of values in students in a very palpable way.”

Adult education enrollment is open for 2024 and classes start on January 9.

Axford said, “That’s one of the programs that I’m most proud of. When I attend their graduation at the end of every year, I’m just always inspired by the stories of our immigrant population, people that have come from different countries who don’t speak English, but they’ve got degrees, and they’ve got all kinds of credentials, but they just don’t speak English. They have this tremendous desire to be successful here in our country. They know the value of education. So it’s not only those that have already gotten degrees, but it’s also those who are degree seeking, and they want a high school diploma. So these folks attend our adult education class, and they attend our ESOL classes, English for Speakers of Other Languages. It just makes a huge difference in their ability to be successful in this country. They’re so grateful. It’s just beyond what you could imagine, in terms of not taking for granted what we have here. You know, sometimes we do take our education for granted and people coming from other places are just so grateful to be able to get an education and get those high school diplomas. They also get a study and can get citizenship. So it’s, it’s a wonderful program as part of the school district.”

The Key West High School world literature students took a trip to the Miami Holocaust Memorial recently.

Axford said, “I was in their classroom on Monday and I was talking to one of the students in the class, and he was saying that the field trip just really backed up the study of the book. I mean, what an ideal thing to do to read about the Holocaust, visit the Holocaust Museum, and then meet a Holocaust survivor. I mean, how much better could the education be? And the class was just so inspired and enthralled in what they were doing. This is an example of education at its best.”