Nov. 5, 2004 – The fire at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School could have been much worse, according to a report made by Board of Education member Keith Richards to the board on Friday.
He said he made a visit to the school on Wednesday, the day after the fire, and was told that attempts had been made to start fires in other areas of the campus "but they did not catch."
He said he was originally concerned the school, which is scheduled to reopen Monday, was being closed too long. However, he said, after he toured the four classrooms destroyed by the fire and learned of all the work the insurance company had to do, he understood the delay. He also told his fellow board members the principal had assured him that arrangements were being made so the destruction would have as little impact as possible on students.
Liston Davis said he was dismayed because "the warnings and signs" of potential problems were there. He said just a week earlier vandals had broken all the locks and entered the school.
Richards said school officials had been concerned about security but thought the new video cameras, scheduled to be installed at the beginning of next year, would alleviate the problem.
Tregenza A. Roach, the board's executive director, said that along with the classrooms, two bathrooms were destroyed and "a lot of educational material, especially for geography." (See "Midnight Fire Cancels Classes at Cancryn").
Richards said that he believed the Department of Education had the situation under control. On Friday Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued a proclamation declaring public exigency to authorize the purchase of supplies and to make contractual agreements for the cleanup and reconstruction of classrooms. This enables the department to obtain equipment and services without observing the advertising for public competitive bidding requirements of the V.I. Code.
Roach was also asked by board members about the status of the problems of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, where students missed four days of school after the principal ignited a protest against the court-ordered return of a student. (See "Kean to Reopen Monday, Justice Files Appeal").
Roach said the board generally stayed above the fray and only issued a statement saying that it was important for school to start as soon as possible.
Richards said that the board needed to remain impartial because it may have to play a role later as the affair unfolds.
Roach said one of the reasons the judge ruled as he did was because the school appeared to be in violation of the board of education policy, that no written report of the student's expulsion had been made.
He added, as far as he knew, the principal was back at the school and the 17-year-old student was in the process of meeting with educators to catch up on work he had missed since he has not been in school at all this year.
Roach also gave the board an update on his efforts to get a Web site up for the board. He said three vendors had bid on the project and the bids ranged from $15,000 to $2,500. He said he went with the low bid and that the site might be functioning within four weeks.
On questioning from Davis, Roach said that the contract for maintenance and update of the site would be for one year and then after that he expected the staff to do the updates. The board met at the Legislative Conference Room in Frederiksted. The meeting was scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. but did not get underway until 10:35 a.m.
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