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HomeNewsArchivesNew K-12 School a Focus for St. John, Acting Education Commissioner Says

New K-12 School a Focus for St. John, Acting Education Commissioner Says

Oct. 1, 2007 — Building a kindergarten through grade 12 school on St. John is a priority, said Acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato on Monday.
"We're going to have to get creative because we can't staff it like we have 2,000 kids," Spampinato told the 75 people gathered Monday at the Legislature building for a Let's Talk meeting.
Being creative might call for things like distance learning or sharing science laboratories among various grades, she said.
"You can't offer every single thing if you only have three kids in a classroom," she said.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen has proposed a bill that authorizes the U.S. Congress to enter into a long-term lease of 10 acres of V.I. National Park land at Catherineberg for the school. The bill passed muster Sept. 20 with the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, which Christensen chairs.
While the issue has been on the burner for decades, until recently most suggestions centered on the idea of swapping park land with land owned by the V.I. government, instead of a lease. At a July Congressional hearing held on St. John, Christensen said leasing land was the most feasible way for the project to move forward.
As the bill makes its way through Congress there will be lots of questions about the territory's ability to build the school, said Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.
While several people spoke in favor of the combined K-12 school, vehement opposition came from Tom Oat, president of the parent-teacher organization at Guy Benjamin School. He spoke against moving students to a larger central school because the school is a small community school.
Several parents asked Spampinato to look into the $325,000 community-development block grant received by Guy Benjamin School in 2000 to build a cafeteria/auditorium.
When the architectural plans were judged inadequate and the project didn't move forward, the Legislature redirected $250,000 of the money at the request of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. But the school needs the cafeteria/auditorium because the students have to eat lunch in shifts and assemblies must be held outdoors on bleachers in poor condition, said Dionne Wells, principal of Guy Benjamin School.
Several people discussed the issues faced by St. John students when they head off to Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas.
"Our kids are thrust into violence when they go over there," said St. John resident Abigail Hendricks, who has six teenagers.
Half of the St. John boys who start out at Eudora Kean drop out because of turf wars at the school, she said. They don't want to go to school on St. Thomas because they don't want to fight, she said.
"Our kids are being intimidated," Hendricks said.
At issue for several parents was a teacher shortage that left Sprauve School short staffed.
Teachers have been recruited from Jamaica, but their arrival was delayed when Hurricane Dean hit that island, Spampinato said. They are now due on St. John in January.
There is a nationwide teacher shortage, but the problem is acute in the territory because the base salary is only $28,000, she said.
"Who can have a salary of $28,000 and live on St. John?" Spampinato asked, referring to the island's high cost of living.
A variety of complaints and concerns from all three islands have come up during the Let's Talk meetings, Spampinato told the St. John crowd.
"I'm going to hear you, but I'm not going to make everything happen," she said.
The acting commissioner plans to develop a full capital plan to take to Gov. John deJongh Jr. so problems aren't fixed piecemeal, she said.
Spampinato will hold another Let's Talk session on St. John from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Legislature building.
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Oct. 1, 2007 -- Building a kindergarten through grade 12 school on St. John is a priority, said Acting Education Commissioner Lynn Spampinato on Monday.
"We're going to have to get creative because we can't staff it like we have 2,000 kids," Spampinato told the 75 people gathered Monday at the Legislature building for a Let's Talk meeting.
Being creative might call for things like distance learning or sharing science laboratories among various grades, she said.
"You can't offer every single thing if you only have three kids in a classroom," she said.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen has proposed a bill that authorizes the U.S. Congress to enter into a long-term lease of 10 acres of V.I. National Park land at Catherineberg for the school. The bill passed muster Sept. 20 with the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, which Christensen chairs.
While the issue has been on the burner for decades, until recently most suggestions centered on the idea of swapping park land with land owned by the V.I. government, instead of a lease. At a July Congressional hearing held on St. John, Christensen said leasing land was the most feasible way for the project to move forward.
As the bill makes its way through Congress there will be lots of questions about the territory's ability to build the school, said Park Superintendent Mark Hardgrove.
While several people spoke in favor of the combined K-12 school, vehement opposition came from Tom Oat, president of the parent-teacher organization at Guy Benjamin School. He spoke against moving students to a larger central school because the school is a small community school.
Several parents asked Spampinato to look into the $325,000 community-development block grant received by Guy Benjamin School in 2000 to build a cafeteria/auditorium.
When the architectural plans were judged inadequate and the project didn't move forward, the Legislature redirected $250,000 of the money at the request of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources. But the school needs the cafeteria/auditorium because the students have to eat lunch in shifts and assemblies must be held outdoors on bleachers in poor condition, said Dionne Wells, principal of Guy Benjamin School.
Several people discussed the issues faced by St. John students when they head off to Eudora Kean High School on St. Thomas.
"Our kids are thrust into violence when they go over there," said St. John resident Abigail Hendricks, who has six teenagers.
Half of the St. John boys who start out at Eudora Kean drop out because of turf wars at the school, she said. They don't want to go to school on St. Thomas because they don't want to fight, she said.
"Our kids are being intimidated," Hendricks said.
At issue for several parents was a teacher shortage that left Sprauve School short staffed.
Teachers have been recruited from Jamaica, but their arrival was delayed when Hurricane Dean hit that island, Spampinato said. They are now due on St. John in January.
There is a nationwide teacher shortage, but the problem is acute in the territory because the base salary is only $28,000, she said.
"Who can have a salary of $28,000 and live on St. John?" Spampinato asked, referring to the island's high cost of living.
A variety of complaints and concerns from all three islands have come up during the Let's Talk meetings, Spampinato told the St. John crowd.
"I'm going to hear you, but I'm not going to make everything happen," she said.
The acting commissioner plans to develop a full capital plan to take to Gov. John deJongh Jr. so problems aren't fixed piecemeal, she said.
Spampinato will hold another Let's Talk session on St. John from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at the Legislature building.
Back Talk Share your reaction to this news with other Source readers. Please include headline, your name and city and state/country or island where you reside.