April 26, 2006 – Since there is no maintenance person assigned to Guy Benjamin School and no St. John-based electrician, plumber and contractor on contract to the Education Department, the school is falling into disrepair, two parents said Wednesday.
"It's heart wrenching as a parent, and as a taxpayer it's unsatisfactory," Parent Teacher Organization Vice President Kristen Cox said.
She said the school suffers from plumbing and electrical problems, the roof needs to be replaced, and there are health code violations.
Cox said that several weeks ago water running down from the roof got into an electrical panel and started a fire.
She said that despite repeated requests for help from the department — spaced over eight days — the department didn't send anyone. She said there were numerous excuses: the truck broke, the electrician had an accident with the truck, and the electrician hurt his hand.
She said after lots of discussion with the department, officials agreed to hire a local electrician.
"Now, we're trying to get the bill paid," she said.
She suggested that the department set up contracts with licensed electricians, plumbers and contractors on St. John to be on call when problems arise.
Lorelei Monsanto, who also has a child at the school, said initially the department wanted the PTO to hire the electrician, but the group refused because members felt it was the department's responsibility.
Monsanto said that Sprauve School has a maintenance person who comes over from St. Thomas, but he has no transportation available for regular trips to Guy Benjamin School. She said sometimes he uses a Housing, Parks and Recreation Department vehicle or the one assigned to the Administrator's office, but he's not able to do the regular maintenance necessary to keep the school in shape.
"There's nobody there to keep up with stuff," she said.
She suggested that school maintenance on St. John be assigned to the Public Works Department.
Monsanto said the maintenance issue has reached a point where the PTO members are considering filing a class action suit against the government.
Cox said last year the department said it would do a maintenance evaluation near the end of the school year.
"They did it Aug. 26 and they were at the school for 12 minutes," she said.
She said she wants the problems corrected so the Guy Benjamin students don't have to go to Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay.
"There are too many students there," she said.
Guy Benjamin, whose name graces the school and who once served as the its principal, pinned the blame squarely on principal Margaret Bowers.
"She has to be sure she's on top of it," he said.
He said that if she wasn't, then someone else should take over the responsibility.
"I'm hearing and seeing that isn't happening," he said.
Bowers and Education Department spokesman Juel Anderson could not be reached for comment because the department was closed for the St. Thomas Carnival holiday.
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