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Monroe County Schools Student in the Upper Keys and Key West Return to New Learning Spaces


MONROE COUNTY, Fla. – Monroe County School District students returned to classes Tuesday, Jan. 8. Gerald Adams Elementary School and Plantation Key School, opened new doors to more than 1,000 students between the two schools.


GAE K-5 students and teachers returned to a 41 classroom facility and a long-awaited outdoor play and fitness area. They can now access a baseball field, two playground sets, a pavilion, and an open field for play.


Dr. Ann Herrin, principal for Gerald Adams Elementary School said teachers are excited to work with students in the new space. “When you come into our new building, you’ll see collaboration areas, openness. You’ll see a lot of space for children to learn.”


Students at PKS had an opportunity to explore areas like Discovery Boulevard, Keys Café, the music lab, the donated NOAA Science on a Sphere, along with spending time learning in a little more than 40 flexible classrooms and labs.


Plantation Key School Principal Lisa Taylor said collaboration is also key at PKS. “The new building is bright and very open to facilitate collaboration opportunities for students and staff. We have a feature called Science on a Sphere that will bring exciting global instruction right into our little island school.”


Monroe County School Board Chairman Bobby Highsmith said seeing the projects exemplify joint efforts. “The completion of these two new school buildings reflects the incredibly strong commitment of this community to supporting public education.  These state-of-the-art facilities will provide our students and teachers with optimal environments in which to grow, learn and achieve.  I am extremely grateful to our voters and taxpayers for supporting the ½ cent sales tax which made this possible. My hat is off to our District and school staffs, our parents and other community members who participated in the planning and design processes, and finally to our architects, contractors and project managers who all collaborated so well to turn these visions into realties.  The results are truly breathtaking.”


Superintendent Mark Porter said the patience of the students, staff and community paid off. “This is a long overdue facility replacement for both schools. Hurricane Irma interrupted the timeline, but not the work efforts.  It truly has been a collaborative effort at all levels throughout the process, and it is rewarding to see it come together. The funding Monroe County citizens provided via the sales tax provided the resources necessary to construct these first-class, 21st century spaces.”


Mr. Porter added, students are enjoying new facilities, but the schools will not be complete until a checklist to include knocking down old buildings, constructing bus loops, and covering playgrounds is finalized.


Facilities Planner Douglas Pryor said the simultaneous build yielded significant results. ”The excitement you see on the faces of the students and staff makes it all worthwhile. It's a very rewarding experience to see the amount of appreciation shown after they see the new building and learning spaces for the first time.”


Both schools house classrooms on two floors, bright open hallways with study spaces, and state of the art food service facilities with full restaurant-style kitchens.


Project Coordinator William Shoemaker said these students are being introduced to a different environment with the new builds. “They’ve been in an older school. Most of the old classrooms don’t have exterior windows, they don’t have exterior doors, minimal amount of lighting. They’re coming to a brand new school, all exterior windows, and great views outside. It’s a wonderful experience for all of the children.”


Students have access to cutting-edge technology, like Clear Touch screens, menu display boards, and Wi-Fi accessibility in outdoor spaces to facilitate open-air learning with technology-use.  Each school is also equipped with single point entry and video surveillance for safety and security.


The Monroe County School District serves approximately 8,700 students throughout the upper, middle, lower keys, and Key West. For more information about MCSD, visit

Photos |

Upper Left Corner | Mrs. Smith’s music class at GAE start off the new year in their new space.

Lower Left Corner | PKS Principal Lisa Taylor shows officials the Science on a Sphere, located on Discovery Boulevard (L to R Project Coordinator William Shoemaker, Principal Lisa Taylor,  Dean of Students Maida Court, Superintendent Mark Porter.