With an eye on eventually owning and improving its building, Monroe County's oldest public charter school, the Key West Montessori, has agreed to a management deal with Miami-based Academica, a for-profit company.
Academica charges $450 per student and provides access to administrative support, employee benefit programs and legislative advocacy, among other things. The Montessori's deal with Academica was sealed Jan. 1.
The company has managed the Key West Collegiate School, a small Stock Island-based charter high school, since 2012. Academica has deferred its fee, as it will for 2014 with the Montessori, according to Montessori Principal Lynn Barras.
Barras said the Montessori, with 118 students in grades one through eight, wants to buy or otherwise take control of its facility, the old May Sands School on United Street. The Monroe County School District owns it and rents to the charter for about $45,000 per year.
"We'd like the district to surplus [the school] to us. Once that happens, then we can access [state] capital outlay funds," she said of her school, founded in 1998.
Barras said Academica can support the Montessori's effort because it has experience in the Public Education Capital Outlay fund process. She also noted that with Academica, Montessori teachers, like School District employees will now have access to dental and vision insurance.
The Montessori is "a fine establishment with a rich sense of community that continues to grow, and we are honored by the opportunity to offer our services," Academica President Fernando Zulueta said.
Barras said she and her school's board are in talks with School District Superintendent Mark Porter and Executive Director of Operations and Planning Pat LaFere about ultimately acquiring their building.
Academica operates about 100 schools in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, and in California, Texas, Nevada, Utah and Georgia.