June 20, 2018

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press
Thorn Grafton, second from left, of Zyscovich Architects discusses features of the new Plantation Key School with a group as they exit from the entrance to the new gymnasium.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press Thorn Grafton, second from left, of Zyscovich Architects discusses features of the new Plantation Key School with a group as they exit from the entrance to the new gymnasium.

ISLAMORADA — When students fill the halls of the new Plantation Key School, they can stroll down Discovery Boulevard to spend time at the Learning Piazza.

Discovery Boulevard is a main hall expected to be filled with educational technology stations, while the Learning Piazza will have “flexible learning spaces” in addition to serving as cafeteria and auditorium.

“There are no words to describe how excited we are,” Principal Lisa Taylor said during a June 12 tour of the under-construction school near mile marker 89.

“There’s so much technology and a real focus on the arts that kids can embrace and become whatever they want to be,” Taylor said.

Monroe County School District Superintendent Mark Porter accompanied several school board members and others on the 30-minute tour, conducted by Bill Shoemaker, district project coordinator, and staff with Zyscovich Architects and Biltmore Construction.

The new Plantation Key School of more than 100,000 square feet now is expected to receive its first students, in kindergarten through eighth grade, in December or January.

A planned opening in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year in August fell victim to Category 4 Hurricane Irma.

It actually was the second hurricane-related construction delay for the existing Plantation Key School, opened in 1976.

The first came in 2005 when flooding from Hurricane Wilma damaged Key West’s Horace O’Bryant School, forcing construction money to be shifted away from a plan to start work on the Upper Keys elementary and middle school.

The new Plantation Key School, built to withstand Category 5 hurricane winds, can accommodate more than 600 students. The new school year likely will be see around 510 students for the first day of class, Taylor said.

Features at the two-story school will include a marine-science lab, media center, an outdoor lakeside amphitheater and dock, a “Science-On-a-Sphere” lab using projectors to display aspects of the earth on a large globe, and a gymnasium. All elementary classrooms have dedicated bathrooms.

Outdoor facilities include playgrounds and a ball field, to be phased in as the existing structure is demolished.

kwadlow@keysnews.com