Jan. 16, 2004 – The recent $268 million bond sale by the Public Finance Authority should spell good news for some of the territory's schools.
Funds promised since 2002 are finally on the horizon. Kenneth Mapp, PFA director of administration and finance, speaking on Radio One WVWI Thursday, said that several million dollars will go to the school system, including $3 million specified for Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.
The school's physical condition has continued to worsen as, time after time, money is appropriated in the Senate which never gets to the school. Cancryn has been in need of repair since Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. It needs a cafeteria, a gymnasium and an auditorium. The school, which has more than 900 students, has no place to hold an assembly for more than 400 students. With no gym, Cancryn physical education activities are held out of doors in a dirt cricket field west of the school where students are exposed to intense sun and experience heat exhaustion, dehydration and aggravations to allergies and asthma. If the weather is inclement, they get no physical education activities at all.
Last month a group of students staged a hunger strike protesting school conditions and the lack of parental involvement in the welfare of its students. See " Cancryn students hunger for gym, A-C").
Sen. Carlton Dowe, who has been very vocal in drumming up money for Cancryn as well as other schools, said at the time of the students' hunger action that the bond funds should be coming through shortly. Meantime, Dowe has written to Sen. Ronald Russell, education and youth committee chairman, suggesting he address certain education issues, including school repair.
Russell said Wednesday that he will incorporate Dowe's ideas into a meeting he had already scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 11 on St. Croix.
Dowe's letter set out an ambitious agenda, including:
– $2 million for construction of the track and field at Ivanna Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas;
– $12 million for a cafeteria and auditorium at Cancryn and a gym at Charlotte Amalie High School;
– $200,000 for Central High School on St. Croix for security equipment and resurfacing its athletic track;
– $20,000 for the St. Croix Education Complex track and field repair;
– $100,000 for Arthur Richards Junior High School on St. Croix.
– $100,000 for Claude O. Markoe School on St. Croix for playground, gym and track repair.
Russell is anxious to present two bills of his own calling for the formation of a Teen Court, and a youth challenge program. He said such a court, which is used in many jurisdictions, brings the students into governance of themselves. The court, he said, is designed to come up with a plan to establish direct input by the students. It would be supervised by actual lawyers.
The youth challenge program is directed toward helping "troubled youngsters," Russell said. "We don't want to call it boot camp, but it is that type program," he said. "It's a program under the supervision of the National Guard."
Russell said, "I've written to Education Commissioner Noreen Michael, giving her time to respond before the February meeting, which will include an update on the territory's reaccreditation program for the high schools' status.
Mapp is also invited to the meeting, which Russell said will likely need follow-up meetings. Having spent much of his first term involved in Senate budget meetings, Russell said now he will turn his full attention to education concerns.
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