It’s 3 o’clock on the second day of the school year at a brand new private school in Cruz Bay.
Co-administrators Sabrina Boebert and Scott Crawford hoped to open the new Coral Bay School at a refurbished restaurant on Route 107 but the space was leased instead to a road contractor. So when the doors swung open for St. John’s first private middle school to serve seventh, eighth and ninth graders, it was in a loft at the St. John Lumberyard.
Boebert and Crawford spent much of their summer converting the space into a main classroom, an small office, a small lunchroom and a smaller classroom.
Visitors ascending the stairs are greeted in the foyer by a sign proclaiming "Welcome to Coral Bay School," emblazoned over 52 panels naming sponsors and contributors who helped make the Sept. 5 opening day possible.
Since Wednesday is community service day, 10 of the 13 new enrollees at Coral Bay School are writing thank-you notes to all of their sponsors, Crawford said.
The co-administrators, both former teachers at the island’s first private school, Pine Peace School, said opening a school of their own ranked among the greatest moments of their lives.
"There is no comparison," said Boebert. "You don’t have an experience like this in your life, except maybe if you give birth."
She said it was well past the end of the first school day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and parent-student assembly when she and Crawford realized they had passed the first hurdle.
Until opening day, Boebert said, most of the effort went into administrative affairs. Now the pair say they are after new goals, the first of which is getting their students through the first year of instruction.
Part of first-day orientation was spent explaining to the new students — some of whom have spent time in home-school settings — the importance of time management.
Instruction is based on block scheduling, Crawford said. Students with classes that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays may find that starting homework assignments on Wednesday night won’t work, he said.
They were also introduced to the concept of independent studies. Each student is expected to pick a topic of interest, research it and produce a multi-media project by the end of the first academic quarter in mid-November.
"We don’t expect them to just present a term paper," Crawford said.
Multi-media projects can combine photos and video presentations, magazine-style journals, Internet web sites or power-point presentations, which are slide shows created with the aid of a computer.
First-day students were also given the facts of life about test-taking and what will be expected of them come exam time.
To get the school ball rolling, Coral Bay School has attracted a number of volunteers.
A volunteer physical education teacher will put students through their paces. Another volunteer shows up a couple of times a week to traffic telephone messages and run errands. A volunteer school nurse has also offered to double as a field trip chaperone.
Other volunteers have offered to help organize a school library.
One of Boebert's first challenges will be coordinating volunteer services. She and Crawford said they also want to move the school through the accreditation process.
The administrator said gaining credibility is important to maintain and attract the kind of support the school will need to succeed.

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