Kindergarten through third-grade students and teachers attending in-person classes at Joseph Gomez Elementary School on St. Thomas will undergo COVID-19 testing by the Health Department on Thursday after COVID-19 exposure on the campus on Tuesday, the Education Department reported Wednesday night.
Faculty and staff have been told to report to the school’s front entrance for testing from 10 to 10:45 a.m. Thursday; students should report immediately following, the department said in a news release. COVID-19 testing is free.
All classes are canceled for kindergarten to third-grade students and teachers Thursday; students in grades four through six will continue to learn virtually. Gomez Elementary School will conduct all classes virtually Friday, the department said.
Additionally, the Ulla F. Muller Elementary School kitchen will be closed Thursday and Friday due to COVID-19 exposure. In-person classes are not affected and will continue to operate safely, the Education Department said.
Students attending in-person classes will receive breakfast and lunch from nearby schools, it said.
As a result of the closure of the kitchen, various meal distribution sites will temporarily close, including Bordeaux, Michael Kirwin Terrace, Contant Knolls, Savan Basketball Court, and Uller Muller School (parking lot), according to the news release. Parents of students living in these neighborhoods who attend school virtually are asked to pick up meals at other distribution sites. Visit www.vide.vi for a complete list of sites.
Lastly, kitchens at the Joseph Gomez Elementary and the Yvonne Milliner-Bowsky Elementary on St. Thomas are temporarily closed due to the failure of refrigeration equipment at the two locations, the Education Department said.
The closure of the Gomez Elementary kitchen is unrelated to the COVID-19 exposure reported at the school on Tuesday, the department said.
Inspectors closed the Gomez and Bowsky kitchens on Monday when freezers and refrigeration units became inoperable that day. Perishable food items were discarded — the standard procedure when refrigeration is compromised, the Education Department said. Inspectors also observed a slow leak in an industrial steam kettle in the Gomez kitchen, and water discoloration briefly appeared when some faucets were first opened — an issue affecting potable water customers in the territory due to older WAPA piping infrastructure, the department said. The discoloration cleared as water continued to run.
Education Department maintenance crews are assessing the cause of the equipment failure, which could stem from recent, frequent power outages, according to the news release. Repairs are being planned.
Students attending in-person classes at the two schools are not affected by the kitchen closures, as breakfast and lunch are being delivered to the campuses from nearby schools, the department said.
The kitchens will reopen when all repairs have been made.
Meanwhile, affected areas of the campuses exposed to COVID-19 will be thoroughly sanitized by a contracted vendor using CDC-approved products before the campus reopens, according to the news release.
The Education Department reminded employees that if they are sick, they must remain at home and seek guidance from the Health Department or a private healthcare provider. If anyone within a household has tested positive for COVID-19 or has COVID-19-related symptoms, children in that household should not attend in-person classes. All members of the household must remain in quarantine until negative COVID-19 test results are received or all members have been cleared by the Health Department.
To knowingly expose others to COVID-19 is punishable by fines and imprisonment, the news release said.
For more information about symptoms and what to do if exposed to COVID-19, visit www.cdc.gov.