In August, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School opened the newly constructed 1500 building, which costs $18 million and was funded by the Florida legislature through the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.
The building holds 30 classrooms, making it the largest on campus. Its purpose is to replace the portables known as Eagle Manor. One of its signature features is a bridge which connects to the second floor of the 900 building.
Each classroom in the building is equipped with a set of class laptops, automated lights and an interactive Promethean board; features that are not always readily available elsewhere on campus. Construction for this building started back in August 2019 and was planned to be completed by July 2020; however, the opening of the building was delayed due to pending inspections.
“In order for the building to be finished, we have to have all inspections passed and the Certificate of Occupancy awarded,” Principal Michelle Kefford said. “Although the actual construction was done around July, it was not until August that all inspections were completed.”
Administration assigned teachers to rooms in the new building, following a school-wide survey asking which teachers would prefer to move there. However, teachers who were directly affected by the shooting Feb. 14, 2018 and those displaced by the removal of Eagle Manor received first priority.
Some of the selected teachers chose to teach from inside their brand new classrooms even while students were still learning from home in Phase 1 of eLearning.
“I am more productive away from home,” English teacher Aaron Avis said. “I get [to school] early to tackle all my grading.”
A private tour of the building took place on Friday, Oct. 9, where three families of the victims from the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting spoke and were given time in Marjory’s Garden to remember their loved ones.
MSD administration gave the private tour at the request of the Alhadeff, Schachter and Montalto families. Max Schachter, the father of the late Alex Schachter, brought a laminated picture of his son and the rest of the victims to the event and posted both videos and pictures on Twitter.
Since the event, there has been an ongoing controversy regarding the placement of a district plaque, and the absence of a memorial to commemorate the 17 victims in the 1500 building.
“In every BCPS school building, a plaque is mounted that identifies the School Board of Broward County and the project architect,” Kefford said. “This has always been a standard practice of the district. Every school and every new construction project has this plaque for informational purposes.”
Additional plaques are located on the main office building and on the 1200 building, marking the original construction of the school in 1990, and the 1200 and 1300 building additions in 2009.
Despite the purpose of the plaques, some of the 17 families feel it would be appropriate for their loved ones to be included in the new construction.
“Although the 1500 building represents a way to move forward into the future, educating our students, there should be a way to memorialize all that we lost on that horrible Valentine’s Day nearly three years ago,” Schachter said in a video posted to Twitter and Facebook.
On Monday, Oct. 12, MSD’s Faculty Council addressed the controversy with a public statement. The Faculty Council consists of 11 teachers that are elected to represent their fellow teachers and address and solve school-wide issues and problems with the MSD administration.
“The MSD faculty, staff and students stand in solidarity with the families of the 17, the injured, and everyone impacted by Feb. 14. Until a permanent, on-campus, memorial replaces the 1200 building, we support the construction of an interim memorial that honors the victims, meets the needs of the school community, and can be integrated into an eventual 1200 building site memorial,” the statement explained. “However, the memorial must be in an appropriate location to ensure proper balance of respecting the victims and the faculty, staff and students who call MSD home. We look forward to continued conversations within the school community related to this initiative.”
The MSD Faculty Council is currently working on a plans for an interim on-campus memorial.
The school district also received $1 million from the state, set aside solely for the purpose of developing a permanent memorial. However, for the community to have access to that memorial, it would have to be located off campus.
Students who elected to return to campus for Phase 2 of eLearning began attending classes inside the new building on Oct. 13.
This story was originally published in the October 2020 Eagle Eye print edition.