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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


Structural damage at Elena Christian Junior High School caused by past hurricanes and exacerbated by Hurricane Lenny will force students into double sessions.
Students of the La Grande Princesse school haven’t had classes since Lenny hammered the island on Nov. 17. On Monday evening Department of Education officials and parents met to figure out how classes can resume in the absence of an entire wing of the school.
Until the damaged section is repaired, school officials will split the instructional day into two parts. Seventh graders will attend classes from 7:25 a.m. to 12.15 p.m. while eighth graders will start at 11:40 a.m. and go to 4:45 p.m.
"We’re going to do everything in our power so that the double sessions don’t go to the end of the school year," said Dr. Noreen Michaels, assistant education commissioner.
The double classes will begin on Friday and last indefinitely, Education officials said. Terrence Joseph, insular superintendent of schools on St. Croix, said the department might try to acquire modular classrooms to house the classes forced out of the damaged wing. No time was given for when that may occur.
Joseph said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has classified the needed repairs as a "large project. However, he gave no cost estimate for repairs.
Cecil Benjamin, president of the St. Croix chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said the school’s proximity to the ocean, especially during hurricanes when salt water is being whipped about, has caused corrosion. Hurricane Marilyn in 1995 caused damage that was never properly repaired and that led OSHA to issue citations to the Department of Education.
"It (the school) looks good from the outside," Benjamin said. "But structurally speaking it’s not that strong."
Meanwhile, like students at Elena Christian, students of the Positive Connections Alternative Education School haven’t attended classes since Lenny. Ongoing problems with the electrical system at that school have yet to be addressed. Joseph said the Department of Education is considering shifting students to another school, possibly John H. Woodson Junior High.
Joseph also said U.S. Marine Corps construction crews could be on island in the next couple of weeks to assist in school repairs.

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