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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, July 18, 2024


For many students at five St. Thomas schools, the start of school may be worth the wait.
After a two-week delay in the start of classes was pinned by the Education Department on missed construction deadlines, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds led a tour Tuesday of two schools with brand-new buildings and three others that have undergone extensive repairs.
According to Simmonds, $10.2 million went into putting an entirely new face on Lockhart Elementary School. The project, which included construction of 41 classrooms, installing new bathrooms and a media center, was carried out by Heery Construction, Lubin Roberts Construction Co. and Kenrick Thomas Construction Co.
Heery project manager Winston Adams said all his crew has left to do is clean up. "They are flattening the parking lot now, and it should be paved by this Saturday," he said.
Lockhart's new media center is equipped with 15 Internet-ready computers as well as private bathrooms for the kindergartners and first graders – and air-conditioning throughout.
Heery Construction also worked on Peace Corps Elementary School. Heery program manager at Lockhart, Joseph Sanches, said, "The interior of both schools have many similarities."
Sanches said about $2.5 million was saved by ordering materials in bulk for both schools. Construction cost for Peace Corps was put at $10.6 million.
Heavy equipment including steamrollers, backhoes and dump trucks still stood at the entrance of Peace Corps school Tuesday, where crews were working on what Principal Elizabeth Shortt said was phase two: the development of a major classroom building.
According to Shortt, construction for phase two is expected to be done by December. "The remaining construction is entirely closed off to the children," she said.
The new school, like Lockhart, is also air-conditioned and has a new computer lab. Shortt said the school already had 12 computers, has received two new ones with six more on order. "One of our goals is to have a computer in every classroom," she said.
According to the project manager at Peace Corps School, Delvin Mercer, the most time-consuming part of construction was laying foundations for the new buildings. "Putting the finishing touches on the school has also been taking a long time," he said.
At Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, half the ceiling in one part of the school had to be removed and replaced because it was infested with termites. According to Principal Sinclair Wilkinson, extensive work had to be done tearing up and replacing tiles.
Wilkinson said the school's art department plans to do murals on portions of the school's white space. "Other than that there are a few leaks, but by and large we are ready to go on Sept. 11."
Each school had its individual reasons for delayed openings. The Matrix construction crew, supervised by Ron Rivas at J. Antonio Jarvis Elementary School, had to adhere to strict regulations because the school is located in a historic district. "We tried to keep a lot of the original architecture," Rivas said. "We had to custom-build the doors we replaced because of the regulations — we couldn't order them."
In addition to working with the regulations, Rivas said they painted all of the classrooms inside and out, patched holes and cracks with plaster throughout the school, and replaced all the toilet seats and some of the bathroom doors.
Construction at Joseph Gomez Elementary School, headed by Octave Seraphin of Seraphin and Ferguson Construction, included an extensive outdoor lighting system with "dusk till dawn" sensors, according to Education spokeswoman June Archibald.
The biggest project at Gomez, according to Seraphin, was a full three weeks of jackhammering the walls so they could be rebuilt. Seraphin also said the bathrooms are completely new and plumbing has been redone.
School officials were unable to say Tuesday how much construction cost at Kean, Jarvis and Gomez schools.

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