This architectural rendering shows the Basilica High School, which has a targeted opening date of late spring 2024. CONTRIBUTED

The Basilica School is bringing Catholic high school back to Key West, and is receiving generous community and parishioner support for its capital campaign.

Key West families will have the option of a Catholic high school for the first time since 1986, when the last class graduated from St. Mary’s High School.

The Basilica School of St. Mary Star of the Sea currently offers pre-kindergarten to ninth grade. The new ninth-graders are attending classes in the convent building on the Truman Avenue campus, but a brand new, 15,000-square-foot Basilica High School building is in the works, said principal Robert Wright.

“By fully restoring Catholic education in Key West, we will have the opportunity to realize the words of Saint Paul – providing an education for the whole child — spirit, mind and body,” Wright said. “The goal of our capital campaign is to raise $7.5 million for the renovation of the old auditorium building. Any funds raised that exceed renovation costs will be used for improvements on the existing elementary and middle school buildings.”

The school already has raised about $2.5 million, and hopes to have $5 million in hand by May 2023 in order to sign a construction contract. The school has already completed architectural plans, a feasibility study and other hurdles. 

“If all goes well, we’ll start building in May, and I see the new building opening in late spring 2024,” Wright said. “We’re piloting our first ninth-grade class with 13 of 21 eighth graders from last year. We’ll add a grade each year.”

The school expects to enroll about 30 to 45 students per high school grade to start, but Wright acknowledged that “when news of the Catholic first hit the Keys Weekly, our phones started ringing off the hook. We’re not trying to be another or to replace Key West High School. The key ingredient to a successful education is a good ethos and environment. As a Catholic school, we can have higher expectations.”

But, Wright emphasized, “We are not just a school for the haves. We have families with seven-figure incomes and kids that we’re sending food home with on the weekends to ensure they can eat. And they’re all in the same classes, wearing the same uniforms. Seventy percent of our students have vouchers and/or tuition assistance and our parish and school community does a tremendous job of fundraising for tuition assistance.”

Tuition for grades K through 8 runs about $9,000 to $9,500 per year, Wright said, adding that high school tuition will be about $12,500 per year, with assistance and vouchers also available.

To bring the new school to fruition, “Options for giving include one-time donations, gift pledges and large gifts payable over multiple years. There are also several naming opportunities available. Please prayerfully consider giving and sharing our endeavor with others who may be interested in expanding the mission and ministry of Catholic education in the Florida Keys,” Wright said. 

To support the capital campaign, contact Wright at [email protected]

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.