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BCB RECONSTRUCTION RUNNING BEHIND SCHEDULE

Reconstruction of the Lockhart and Peace Corps Elementary Schools is on schedule and the new facilities are expected to open next year in mid-April and mid-November, respectively, senators were told Friday, but work at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School is taking more time and costing more money than projected.
The middle school was targeted for completion in mid-year 2001; Education officials declined to give a new date by which the work is now expected to be done.
The information was presented to the Senate Education Committee at an all-day hearing Friday at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas.
To date, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said, $10.1 million has been spent on rebuilding the three schools, all severely damaged by Hurricane Marilyn more than four years ago. She gave the breakdowns as $4.5 million for Lockhart, $2.9 million for Peace Corps and $2.7 million for BCB.
Brian Turnbull, program coordinator for the V.I. Public Finance Authority, attributed the Boschulte delays to requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, site conditions, adverse weather and the high cost of concrete on St. Thomas. Simmonds said one cause was a need to redesign the music suite.
Turnbull testified that $42.3 million was budgeted for the overall reconstruction but the projected cost is now $44 million. He said the main reason is that the original proposal did not include removal of the temporary modular classrooms now in place at the three school sites, demolition of their foundations, paving of roads and parking lots, and relocating furniture and equipment from the modular units into the new buildings.
Edmund Blaize of Caribbean Professional Consulting testified on plans for repair work at Addelita Cancryn Junior High and Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas, and at Central High and Juanita Gardine Elementary School on St. Croix. He said work is to begin in January and be completed "within months."
Blaize, whose company has the territorywide contract for school repairs, was formerly the Education Department's chief engineer. He said his fee for the work is 10 percent of the $6.5 million contract.
The Education Committee session was scheduled to address the status of school reconstruction and repairs, but testimony ranged beyond that to other ills afflicting the territory's educational system, with blame invariably laid to lack of funds and resultant lack of personnel.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds evaded the question put to her by committee chair Norman Jn.-Baptiste as to whether her department was facing "a crisis or a looming crisis." In terms of both facilities and instruction, the department has "many problems, many challenges," she said.
One of those problems, she said at another point in testimony, is that her administration is continually "being diverted from systematically addressing problems" by "crises that come up" and by "having to respond to requests for information at public hearings and investigations."
Also, Simmonds said, "Government makes it difficult to get things done" — making it necessary to deal with bureaucratic delays while "we're operating with a reduced staff."
Discussion at one point centered on reported Education Department plans to terminate the "night school" adult continuing education program leading to a high school diploma and to transfer the affected students into its General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program.
Simmonds said published reports caught her by surprise and that "there has been no determination made by the Department of Education to terminate night school." There have been shifts in staffing, she said, but "I have no intention of terminating adult continuing education."
Education Committee members present for the session in addition to Jn.-Baptiste were Sens. Judy Gomez, David Jones and Vargrave Richards. Also in attendance were two senators who are not members of the committee — Lorraine L. Berry and Donald "Ducks" Cole.
Toward the end of the hearing, Berry called for the privatization of school maintenance services. The department, she said, must "find someone to manage these projects." And it cannot, she added, be "someone with a bucket and a mop."

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Reconstruction of the Lockhart and Peace Corps Elementary Schools is on schedule and the new facilities are expected to open next year in mid-April and mid-November, respectively, senators were told Friday, but work at Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School is taking more time and costing more money than projected.
The middle school was targeted for completion in mid-year 2001; Education officials declined to give a new date by which the work is now expected to be done.
The information was presented to the Senate Education Committee at an all-day hearing Friday at the Legislature Building on St. Thomas.
To date, Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds said, $10.1 million has been spent on rebuilding the three schools, all severely damaged by Hurricane Marilyn more than four years ago. She gave the breakdowns as $4.5 million for Lockhart, $2.9 million for Peace Corps and $2.7 million for BCB.
Brian Turnbull, program coordinator for the V.I. Public Finance Authority, attributed the Boschulte delays to requests from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, site conditions, adverse weather and the high cost of concrete on St. Thomas. Simmonds said one cause was a need to redesign the music suite.
Turnbull testified that $42.3 million was budgeted for the overall reconstruction but the projected cost is now $44 million. He said the main reason is that the original proposal did not include removal of the temporary modular classrooms now in place at the three school sites, demolition of their foundations, paving of roads and parking lots, and relocating furniture and equipment from the modular units into the new buildings.
Edmund Blaize of Caribbean Professional Consulting testified on plans for repair work at Addelita Cancryn Junior High and Charlotte Amalie High School on St. Thomas, and at Central High and Juanita Gardine Elementary School on St. Croix. He said work is to begin in January and be completed "within months."
Blaize, whose company has the territorywide contract for school repairs, was formerly the Education Department's chief engineer. He said his fee for the work is 10 percent of the $6.5 million contract.
The Education Committee session was scheduled to address the status of school reconstruction and repairs, but testimony ranged beyond that to other ills afflicting the territory's educational system, with blame invariably laid to lack of funds and resultant lack of personnel.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds evaded the question put to her by committee chair Norman Jn.-Baptiste as to whether her department was facing "a crisis or a looming crisis." In terms of both facilities and instruction, the department has "many problems, many challenges," she said.
One of those problems, she said at another point in testimony, is that her administration is continually "being diverted from systematically addressing problems" by "crises that come up" and by "having to respond to requests for information at public hearings and investigations."
Also, Simmonds said, "Government makes it difficult to get things done" -- making it necessary to deal with bureaucratic delays while "we're operating with a reduced staff."
Discussion at one point centered on reported Education Department plans to terminate the "night school" adult continuing education program leading to a high school diploma and to transfer the affected students into its General Equivalency Diploma (GED) program.
Simmonds said published reports caught her by surprise and that "there has been no determination made by the Department of Education to terminate night school." There have been shifts in staffing, she said, but "I have no intention of terminating adult continuing education."
Education Committee members present for the session in addition to Jn.-Baptiste were Sens. Judy Gomez, David Jones and Vargrave Richards. Also in attendance were two senators who are not members of the committee -- Lorraine L. Berry and Donald "Ducks" Cole.
Toward the end of the hearing, Berry called for the privatization of school maintenance services. The department, she said, must "find someone to manage these projects." And it cannot, she added, be "someone with a bucket and a mop."