Students in Key West, the Lower Keys and perhaps farther north will have a new option when it comes to high schools in August 2023.
Not only is The Basilica School bringing a Catholic high school back to Key West, but Somerset Island Prep, a charter high school on Flagler Avenue, has expanded enrollment in recent years.
And now, the College of the Florida Keys is constructing a new building on its Key West campus that will house the CFK Academy charter high school. The school aims to enroll 85 students in its first year, and then increase that enrollment to about 220 students over five years.
The goal of CFK Academy, college president Jonathan Gueverra told the Keys Weekly, is to enable students to graduate from high school with both a diploma and an associate’s degree, which could eliminate two years’ worth of costly college tuition for students ultimately seeking a bachelor’s degree.
“The state of Florida has provided catalyst funds for charter schools on college campuses so students can save money on their higher education,” Gueverra said on Tuesday. “The goal is to make Florida a place where education is affordable.”
With a charter high school on the college campus, students will be able to take college-level classes for college credit without traveling back and forth from Key West High School to the college, as KWHS students do, for traditional dual-enrollment classes.
“We’ll offer seamless schedules, and parents don’t have to worry about transportation between two schools, even if they’re only a mile or so apart,” Gueverra said. “We want to do anything we can to make things more convenient and conducive for them. The students will also get exposure and access to our career, technical and apprenticeship programs.”
The new CFK Academy building will have the same security requirements as traditional high schools, and college students will not have access to the high school building, said Brittney Snyder, executive vice president of the college.
The county school board met on June 28 with college officials to ask questions about the CFK Academy, which must submit detailed plans about curriculum, projected enrollment and educational philosophies to the state board of education and to the county school district.
Charter schools are funded with public money, and are free for students to attend. (The Catholic high school will not be a charter school, but a tuition-based private school.)
“The college has long had an interest in opening other avenues for students to have opportunities to do more career technical education programs,” Gueverra told the school board Tuesday in Marathon. “We have a good partnership with the school district. This is not about taking away, but adding opportunities.”
Board member Mindy Conn expressed concern about staffing the new high school.
“Could we see high school teachers being recruited by CFK to teach there?” she asked, adding that she hoped there could be some crossover in public high school students could possibly take a class from a charter school teacher if that class isn’t available at a public high school.
“I could be somewhat blunt and callous and say that I’ve lost a lot of employees to the school district over the years and we’ve dealt with it,” Gueverra replied. “I can’t prevent people from going from point A to point B if they see a better opportunity. However, as I said, we’re all working toward the same goal and I don’t see any reason that crossover couldn’t happen. There could be all kinds of relationships to create. It’s part of all of us working together.”
The school board took no formal action Tuesday on the charter school application, which was listed as a workshop discussion, not an action item.