August 8, 2018

Theresa Java/Free Press and CONTRIBUTED
Left, Carpe Diem Academy, a school that serves special needs students, is slated to open this Key Largo campus in the fall. Above, two Carpe Diem students play Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots at the Kendall campus.

Theresa Java/Free Press and CONTRIBUTED Left, Carpe Diem Academy, a school that serves special needs students, is slated to open this Key Largo campus in the fall. Above, two Carpe Diem students play Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots at the Kendall campus.

KEY LARGO — Carpe Diem Academy, a special needs school that teaches core curriculum classes to children who exhibit moderate to severe cognitive, physical, medical and social-emotional delays, will be opening an Upper Keys campus soon.

Chief Executive Officer Lissa Torres said the opening has been postponed due to the installation of a new fire sprinkler system. She had hoped to open the campus by Aug. 15, which is the start of the 2018-19 public school year in Monroe County.

With five local children already enrolled, Carpe Diem is offering to transport students to the Kendall Carpe Diem Academy campus from the Key Largo location.

Van space and classroom space depends on which special needs the school must accommodate.

“Wheelchairs physically take more space,” Torres said. “We are just opening, so we can access what the community needs from there and try to provide as much as we can.”

According to Torres, students need not be enrolled full-time to take advantage of the applied behavioral analysis, mental health therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech and language therapy coordinated by Carpe Diem as part of the school’s program.

“Parents don’t necessarily have the time or resources to run their kids from therapist to therapist throughout the school day,” Torres said.

It was after Torres met Dr. Joanne Mahoney, M.D., and realized that Monroe County is a critical needs area for special needs services that she decided to open the Key Largo campus. And she’s gotten a good response so far, she said, with one family driving up from Key West.

Torres established the Kendall campus in 2005 after being a public school educator and seeing a lack of resources for special needs students in the system.

“My goal is to provide an intensive education with the needed support,” Torres said. “We teach students as a whole – with a comprehensive approach that combines therapies, technology to promote learning and independence with the parents being involved.”

The special needs school is offered to pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, or until age 22, in accordance with Department of Education guidelines.

The application process begins with a scheduled tour of the campus, a student evaluation and review before a student is accepted.

The school day runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays and provides fee-based before and after school programs.

Staff works with families with disabilities to find financial support for Carpe Diem’s program as it is a nonprofit, according to Torres. She said scholarships are available that offset program costs and the school accepts Medicaid and most private insurances.

The Carpe Diem Academy Key Largo campus is located at 95360 Overseas Highway, unit 4, bayside. To learn more about its offered services, call 305-600-2655, or visit carpediemacademy.org.

tjava@keysnews.com