Residents near Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School in Frederiksted can expect to see activity beginning in the next two weeks, according to Eleven Construction Project Manager John Thompson.
“Once we have all of the trash cleaned up, we will begin the asbestos remediation and we expect that to be completed by the end of November,” said Thompson during a public Zoom meeting hosted by the V.I. Board of Education.
The demolition of the Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School is another step closer to rebuilding the new “Arthur A. Richards PreK-8 School.”
Architect Chaneel Callwood said the demolition of the old Arthur A. Richards Junior High School was completed and brought in under budget and within the time frames expected from the contractor. Once the asbestos is cleared from the school and the buildings are deemed safe, Thompson said that they will then be demolishing the Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School. The scheduled completion date is currently mid-summer next year and Thompson said that they do not expect it to run into August 2022.
“There will be lots of safety measures in place beginning with a security fence around the whole property that will be in close proximity to the school,” Thompson said. The crew will not use the existing fence because of its damage.
Other safety expectations are water being sprayed at the demolition site to minimize the dust that can affect the neighboring community, and asbestos will be contained in locked storage. Once the asbestos is prepared to ship, it will be sent in a shipping container that will be clearly marked asbestos, and it will be disposed of on the U.S. mainland. Thompson said that the type of asbestos cannot become airborne. However, they are going to monitor for it. “Everything will be bagged, cleaned, washed and immediately placed into a storage container so there will be no outside exposure within the containment area.”
Thompson said that other personal protective equipment will also be utilized during the demolition. As far as a demolition schedule, residents can anticipate activity Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Callwood said that the construction company will be obtaining three different permits (demolition, asbestos, and stormwater handling) from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. “In the meantime, they will be able to erect the construction fencing and remove the debris from the construction site,” Callwood said.
“This part of the project is only to demolish the existing buildings, no new construction. The new construction will begin as soon as Eleven Construction is finished and has cleared the buildings off the site.”
The V.I. Department of Education emphasized Williams Elementary was selected for several reasons, and they did explore other options. One reason to relocate Richards Junior High School was that its old location was in a tsunami zone and in a flood plain. The Evelyn M. Williams school was selected because of the campus size and the department wanted to keep the west location.
Callwood provided a glimpse into the new design of the Arthur A. Richards PreK-8 School. The new design will correct all flooding issues that led to the deterioration of the Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School. The water will be able to flow through the site so that there are no drainage issues.
The new design also retains the current parking lot as much as possible. Students will be welcomed to a new gymnasium, cafeteria, library, four separate kindergarten to fifth-grade learning facilities, an administrative building, a building dedicated to pre-kindergarten students, and possibly a pool.
“You’ll notice that some of the classrooms are not the same size and that is because every lesson is not meant to be taught the same way. Students will be able to do lab activities, meet in small groups with teachers or tutors, give presentations, attend lectures, combining classrooms for certain activities and spaces for outdoor learning,” said Callwood.
“All the circulation between classrooms will now be indoors. When it rains, students will not have to go outside to go from one classroom to another. Students within a learning suite will be interconnected.” Callwood said that the school’s community was also involved in the design and suggested covered walkways so that students and staff can walk between buildings and not get wet.
“What’s important for us is you tell a friend, tell a neighbor, encourage others to listen to our public forums and to listen to our community meetings. It is very important. We will continue to stress that education is everyone’s responsibility,” Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin said.
To see the entire meeting, click below.