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Berry-Benjamin Takes Governor on School Tours on First Day Back to In-Person Learning

Governor Bryan tours Joseph Gomez Elementary School on Sept. 7. (Submitted photo)

Virgin Islands Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin hosted Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. on Sept. 7 on a tour of four schools — Ricardo Richards Elementary and Lew Muckle Elementary on St. Croix, Julius E. Sprauve School on St. John, and Joseph Gomez Elementary School on St. Thomas — to mark the reopening of campuses for in-person learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

Students attending the territory’s public schools in grades PreK-3rd, special education self-contained classes, and Career and Technical Education students who are enrolled in a specific career pathway have returned to campuses for the first time since May. Parents with students in these groups could allow their children to continue learning virtually. Students in grades 4-12 will also continue to learn virtually.

Students in classroom at Julius E. Sprauve School on opening day Sept. 7 (Submitted photo)

The school tours, streamed live on the department’s Facebook page, showcased classrooms with Plexiglas barriers affixed to student and teacher desks, floor markings depicting boundaries for classroom seating, floor decals depicting social distancing requirements, safety signage throughout campuses, additional handwashing and hand sanitizing stations, among other campus upgrades.

The governor offered teachers and students encouraging words for a successful return to campuses.

“I am so proud of all of you and wish everyone a safe and successful school year as we begin returning students to our campuses,” Gov. Bryan said. “We want students to return to the classroom, and the Bryan-Roach administration is doing everything to ensure this is being done in the safest way possible.”

Commissioner Berry-Benjamin praised district and school leaders for their extensive work to prepare campuses and thanked the V.I. Department of Health for its ongoing support.

Sy’Ari Gordon, 3, arrives at Granny Pre-Kindergarten with grandmother Elizabeth Mitchell on the campus of Ricardo Richards Elementary School on Sept. 7. (Submitted photo)

“We are so happy to be here today to reopen our campuses so that students can come to school and learn,” Berry-Benjamin said. “Under the close guidance of the Department of Health, our district and school leaders, as well as maintenance staff, custodial staff and food service workers, have prepared diligently to ensure campuses are ready to receive students and staff.

“While we are still very much in the midst of this pandemic, students still need to be educated. We have done our part to prepare, and we ask parents to do their part to ensure students can be in the best educational environment to learn,” she said.

Today’s return to in-person learning is the second time the Department of Education has reopened its campuses during the pandemic. From March-May of the 2020-2021 school year, students returned to campuses.

Other officials participating in the school tours were First Lady Yolanda Bryan, Government House Chief of Staff Karl Knight, St. Croix District Superintendent Carlos McGregor, St. Croix Deputy Superintendents Dr. Carla Bastian and Ericilda Ottley-Herman, St. Thomas-St. John District Superintendent Dr. Stefan Jurgen, St. Thomas-St. John District Deputy Superintendents Dr. Symra Dee Brown and Desha Powell, St. Thomas/Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis, and St. John Administrator Shikima Jones-Sprauve.

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