The campus of Florida Keys Community College just got a whole lot safer.
At the most recent meeting of the board of trustees, FKCC President Jonathan Gueverra made the announcement the college has contracted with Blackwater Agency, of Miami, to provide security services for the Key West campus 24/7, beginning July 1.
Blackwater Associates is not related to Blackwater Security, the private mercenary contractor, now known as Xe, which was made infamous by its conduct in the service of the U.S. government, in Iraq.
Previously FKCC had in place a security regimen that provided for patrols by two security guards, eight hours a day, while classes were in session.
The new guards will carry pepper spray for defensive purposes but will not be otherwise armed except for one supervisor, who will not be on the campus 24/7. The deal also includes one security vehicle.
The cost of the service will be $12.95 per hour, for a total fee of $226,262.40, over the life of the one-year contract, which has an option to renew, for a total of four years. The college had been paying $13.50 per hour.
"Since January, I have sent half a dozen messages of condolence to colleges presidents who have had acts of violence occur on their campuses," Gueverra said. "As a result, we want to do everything we can to make sure similar events do not occur at FKCC. Having 24/7 security will greatly enhance the safety and comfort of our students, employees, and visitors - which we take very seriously. The additional monitoring has become especially critical since we now have a residence hall as well as other organizations like the collegiate high school on campus."
The new security regimen will also include car decals, which students, teachers, and visitors must affix to their cars to park in the FKCC lot. Gueverra said that the decals would be sold for the printing cost.
"We're not out to make a profit from the decals," Gueverra said at the board meeting.
Also at the FKCC meeting, which began with the announcement of the "warning" status conveyed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges, Gueverra announced a number of new programs.
The college plans to begin offering courses, and holding graduation ceremonies, at the volunteer run, non-profit San Carlos Institute, on Duval Street.
At press time, the college confirmed they'll be offering for-credit courses in History, Business, and Math, this fall, as well as Art History, Creative Writing, and Math during the spring semester. A number of non-credit classes, to be determined, will also be offered, at the downtown landmark.
A Dec. 13 graduation ceremony is also planned, as well as a Presidential Lecture Series, whereby the presidents of both institutions will present distinguished lecturers from all over the world, on the third Thursdays of the month.
"Partnering with San Carlos Institute is a win-win," Gueverra said. "We have similar interests and look forward to collaboratively providing educational and cultural events and programs in their beautiful facility. This partnership allows FKCC to expand accessibility and convenience to students who live and/or work in downtown Key West. This December we will begin a new tradition of holding a fall graduation ceremony, which will be held at the San Carlos each year moving forward."
San Carlos Institute President Rafael Penalver on Thursday said he is equally enthused about the development, which he called the payoff from a decade of effort on the part of his board.
"We're really excited about this," Penalver said. "The board and I have been working for 10 years to make this happen. It's a great thing for Key West to have a college presence downtown, and for the San Carlos, it's a continuation of educational excellence that started in 1871."
Penalver pointed out that the official name of the organization is "The San Carlos Patriotic and Educational Institution.
"The founders envisioned that education was the key to a democratic society, and when it opened, the San Carlos was one of the first bilingual, and integrated, schools in the south," Penalver said. "Black and white children sat side-by-side in the classrooms of the San Carlos, almost 100 years before Martin Luther King Jr., and the integration of southern schools. They wanted to emulate the San Carlos Seminary in Cuba, which was founded 100 years earlier."
The San Carlos board is offering the use of the space to the college for free during the first year as a public service to the residents of Key West, Penalver said.
"This is another major milestone in accomplishing the mission we have for the San Carlos and an empowerment to the residents of Key West, to bring back the educational roots of the institution," he said.
Gueverra also announced that beginning this fall, the college will begin charging dual enrollment students from area high schools at all three of its campuses.