The holidays are a fun time at Monroe County Schools

Students and teachers alike look forward to the time before the holidays in the Monroe County School District.

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

There are so many fun events during the holiday season in the schools.

Axford said, “One thing in particular that is so nice is that Gerald Adams, those students were able to walk over to see the Nutcracker at Tennessee Williams Theater. They were just enthralled. It’s just a phenomenal show. So 500 of our kids got to go over and see that.”

The Key West High School band concert is coming up on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. at the Glynn Archer Performing Arts Center.

Axford said, “They do an amazing production with all of their music departments, both the chorus and the band. If anyone wants to have a burst of holiday magic, that’s the program to go to.”

Horace O’Bryant School will have a band concert in the gym next week.

Axford said, “Next week Sugarloaf School is celebrating by on Monday kids are wearing their holiday socks. Tuesday is a holiday hat. Wednesday it’s holiday sparkle. Thursday a holiday sweater. So we are just doing so well in the schools and really celebrating this year.”

The last day of school before the break will be December 16.

Axford said, “Teachers are just so skilled. I want to give a big shout out to them because we’ve got new standards in both reading and math and we’ve gotten new materials. It’s a lot of work for teachers when they get new materials because they’ve got to review them and decide where it’s best to use them. Everything has changed up for them this year, but they are really doing an excellent job of managing all of that.”

There is also a new system for progress monitoring. The state has dropped the former testing and has moved to a progress monitoring test.

“So that’s all new as well,” Axford said. “Interpreting those results and then acting on them, it’s just teachers have had a lot of extra work to do. I’m so proud of them and I’m glad that we were able to get that additional $5,000 raise to every teacher in the district because they deserve it.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “They certainly do. They are working harder than ever. They’re terrific role models.”

Professional development for the teachers is ongoing as well. There are three early dismissal days where teachers will take the time to continue with curriculum instruction.

Axford said, “We’re doing a lot of work this year to help teaches with a K-12 curriculum that deals with the environment. Of course our schools are very concerned about coral reef restoration and all the things that are going on with the National Marine Sanctuary to protect our coral reefs and our beautiful waters. Teachers participated in Everglades Literacy Projects.”

There have been more than 300 English Learners register in the Monroe County School District in the past year.

Axford explained, “You need special training when students come to school and they have no English. So once again, teachers are called upon to deliver instruction and get them up to speed in English. We provide support for that.”

Additionally, every person in the district has to have mental health first aid training – it’s required from the state.

Axford said, “What it allows you to do is recognize a student or an adult or any person that you know who might be in trouble with considering taking their lives or just being in a bad time. It helps you recognize the signs and symptoms and how to provide support.”

It’s always difficult to figure out where time goes, but we are already halfway through the school year and things have been going well.

Axford said, “It’s so wonderful. It’s such a breath of fresh air not to be worrying about all those issues that were just running rampant the last two years. I just feel a new sense of purpose and happiness going on because of that. It seems like we are past COVID. I know it’s still out there and it’s still something we all have to be wary of and watching for, but it’s just not running rampant in our schools or our community and we’re so fortunate.”

The school board took a tour of the new Sugarloaf School Building recently.

Axford said, “It was just an amazing experience. We have such wonderful buildings for our schools and Sugarloaf is just another example of an amazing facility where students and teachers are going to be able to flourish. It’s truly amazing.”

There will be community open houses at all the Monroe County Schools during the second semester.

Axford said, “We want the community to have an opportunity to see what our schools look like and what’s going on as well. So we’re planning those this second semester.”