Students at three St. Croix public schools will find themselves in temporary quarters during the 2015-16 school year as the V.I. Department of Education repairs longstanding structural and environmental issues at Elena Christian Jr. High School and Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School.
The department announced Monday that the decision to address the school’s environmental condition throughout next school year was made jointly by Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Education Commissioner Dr. Sharon McCollum after assessment of both schools by a corps of engineers.
“Both of these schools have very critical and ongoing structural and environmental issues that we must address," McCollum said in announcing the closures. "We want to keep children and educators safe. We cannot have another instance like at Gomez school where a teacher was injured by falling debris. So this is more preventative than reactive.”
To accommodate and merge students and staff during the 2015-2016 school year, the department plans:
– Students, faculty, and staff from Elena Christian Jr. High School will move into the Charles H. Emanuel Elementary School.
– Students, faculty and staff from Charles H. Emanuel Elementary School will move from their school and merge into the Alfredo Andrews Elementary School, joining with those students.
– Students, faculty and staff from Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School will leave their school and split between joining Claude O’Markoe Elementary School and Eulalie Rivera Elementary School.
“We have met with the PTA of all schools involved, as well as the faculty and staff,” St. Croix District Superintendent Colleen Williams said. “After the decision was made we also met with representatives of the unions, including the American Federation of Teachers and the Educational Administrators Association.”
McCollum said communication and collaboration are key to success in these situations.
Referring to the recent short-term closure of Alexander Henderson school due to repairs earlier this year and the temporary location of those students, McCollum said, “Overall that process worked well and taught us a lot. When we engage all stakeholders affected, and work together, we can have a smooth transition for our students, educators and administrators. I have confidence we will have similar results in this instance.”
Monday’s DOE announcement did not details the work to be done at each school.