The Key West High School band has a special trip planned

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

The Key West High School band has an exciting opportunity coming up to be in London on New Year’s Eve. 

Axford said, “It is exciting. I believe about 77 students are going to be able to attend. I think he’s got maybe 27, up to 30 adult chaperones who will be attending also. So that’s going to help get everything organized. But I think that it’s hard to kind of put your arms around the logistics of getting 77 instruments, because our insurance department has been working with the agency that is going to transport the instruments for us and we’re going back and forth to make sure that everything is covered. But that’s a pretty big project when you consider you’re taking tubas, sousaphones, big drums. It’s a lot of logistics.”

The Early Learning Coalition met recently. It’s a combination of Miami-Dade and Monroe. 

Axford said, “They are a very interesting organization and all the early learning that goes on in South Florida is supervised by the Early Learning Coalition. They do many different types of jobs in terms of supporting children. They have a retreat every year. They come down to Monroe County for their retreat. Because most of the meetings, they meet monthly, those meetings are held up in Coral Gables. So they like to get down to the Keys and see how things are going down here and have an opportunity to meet some Keys people. So we had quite a few people at the meeting on Monday, and the topic was changing income thresholds for school readiness. What we’re finding is that the earning thresholds are so low, that no one in Monroe County could ever qualify for those school readiness funds. Yet, we know that our parents here really need that support and that funding. What happens with governmental agencies, I think, and of course, the state of Florida is a huge conglomerate, the actual tables for certain programs don’t keep pace with what real income is going on. People then are always done out of certain things. I mean, you couldn’t live in Monroe County with a threshold of $11,000. I mean, there’s no way that a family of three to get by. We were able to change some things for our Take Stock program. So I think there is an ear in the state to change some of these thresholds. Because we were having students who wanted to enter Take Stock, but could not do. So now, for a family of four with Take Stock, you can have an income of 70,000. But still, you can imagine a parent and two children on that income, you’re just kind of edging by at that level.”

Will there be an action plan to rectify this? 

Axford said, “What they want to do is just contact our state legislators. Those legislators are the ones that really have the power to help. And I think that when there’s postcards and letters in their mailboxes, we know that that really helps them understand what’s important to folks. The Chamber folks were there in Marathon. Obviously, for chamber people, childcare and availability for services is extremely important when businesses are moving into the area. So we really have to all of us have to work together on something like this.”

What kind of services are available? 

Axford said, “The school readiness takes care of kids from zero to five. That’s another problem in our community. I don’t think parents can find daycare for children that are under the age of three. So there’s a real lack of services in Monroe County when it comes to early child care and supporting parents with that. I think many mothers just decide with the cost of childcare, I might as well not work, I might as well just stay home and take care of the kids myself. So there’s a lot of work to be done in this area. Thankfully, we have agencies like the Early Learning Coalition, but also Wesley House and other community agencies that are trying to work towards better child care and so we just have to all continue to fight the fight because there aren’t adequate services and we need to do whatever we can to push ahead and get them.”

Getting out of the Trumbo annex is still being worked on. 

Axford said, “We’re going to continue our efforts to move out of Trumbo annex and move. We need $18 million to refurbish Bruce Hall on United Street and we’re going to be back and talking to all the commissioners to get behind us for that project. We’re going to make sure that Ana Maria and Jim, we got $2 million last year, that’s one rung on the ladder. The sooner that we can get moving on Bruce Hall, it is going to be the sooner that we can continue with for affordable housing on Trumbo Point. Our goal is 150 units. We have an RFP out that has been out since August the 24th for Trumbo, and the 60 days up are up on October 25, so we’re certainly anxious to look at what all of our contractors and other agencies have come up with, to build on Trumbo. Because you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other to make these things happen.”

Free and reduced meals are also available on the district website. 

Axford said, “That free and reduced lunch form is not that difficult to fill out and people would be surprised how easy it is and doesn’t require all this awful checking, so that you’re going to be picked up by immigration or anything like that. People should really look into applying because it helps us to have an adequate picture of how many people need free and reduced lunch.”

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