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Pine Peace, Coral Bay Schools to Be Merged in Fall

June 29, 2004 – When the new academic year begins in the fall, Pine Peace School and The Coral Bay School will unite to become The St. John School on Gifft Hill.
The Pine Peace campus will remain intact for pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Work is expected to start soon on a facility for the new school's upper grades. The school cemented a deal last week with Reliance Housing Corp. for eight acres of land on Gifft Hill Road near Pine Peace School.
Scott Crawford and his wife, Sabrina Boebert, served as co-heads of The Coral Bay School and will share similar responsibilities for the combined school. They also will manage the upper school, which consists of grades 7-12.
Beth Knight, who headed operations at Pine Peace School, and Randy Shapiro will be in charge of the lower school.
Crawford said the school was able to buy the land for the upper grades because Reliance Housing, which is developing the Bellevue Village Apartments affordable housing complex next door, gave them "a great deal" – a $425,000 price.
Additionally, he said, Realtor Gretchen LaBrenz of Cruz Bay Realty waived her commission on the sale, and the Sandy Hill and Thomas H. Dittmer Foundation made "a very generous" donation toward the land acquisition.
Crawford said they expect to break ground for a 14,000-square-foot steel gymnasium on the property by mid to late September, and construction should be finished by March. "It will be shipped here and go up quickly," he said.
The building is expected to cost $700,000 to $800,000 and will be paid for by an upcoming capital campaign, he said.
Coral Bay School classes met in cramped space at the Lumberyard Shopping Complex. The St. John upper school initially will occupy space in the new gymnasium. "We'll divide it into temporary classrooms," Crawford said, adding that the space will be three times that of the Lumberyard facilities.
The school meanwhile is developing plans for an administrative and classroom complex, parking facilities and an athletic field.
Crawford said The Coral Bay School searched for three years for suitable land to build. The Gifft Hill property will work well because only one lot separates it from Pine Peace School, he said.
Joining the schools provides a curriculum continuum for the students and "will overall raise the bar for academics," he said, while allowing for one focus, rather than two, in fund-raising efforts.
Crawford said the Gifft Hill location will help with transportation problems for the four or five teachers and 15 to 20 students who commute each day from St. Thomas. "We're looking at options for transportation," he said.
The Coral Bay School initially planned to locate permanently in Coral Bay, but a land deal fell through.
The Coral Bay School, which in the last academic year provided instruction in grades 7-12, opened in 2000 at the Lumberyard and just graduated its first senior class. Crawford said all nine graduates are heading off to college.
Pine Peace started as a pre-school more than two decades ago. Originally located in Pine Peace, it moved several times before settling on Gifft Hill Road. It also expanded several times, ultimately providing pre-kindergarten through sixth grade instruction.
Both Pine Peace School and The Coral Bay School are accredited by the Middle States Association. The Coral Bay School received accreditation this year.

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