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HomeNewsArchivesU.S. House Approves St. John School Bill

U.S. House Approves St. John School Bill

Oct. 22, 2007 — With only five minutes of statements by Delegate Donna M. Christensen and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, the U.S. House of Representatives Monday approved a bill to authorize the Interior secretary to negotiate a lease with the local government for land within the V.I. National Park on St. John for a school.
"This bill is strongly supported by the people of the Virgin Islands and, in particular, the people of St. John," Christensen said during a session broadcast on C-SPAN.
She gave thanks to St. John residents Kristen Cox, Lorelei Monsanto, Alvis Christian and Ronnie Jones, who are all members of the One Campus Group and are working hard to make a combined school on St. John a reality.
Cox said she was "elated" that the bill passed.
'"I think everybody is coming together to agree on why we're trying to reach this goal," she said. Building a school complex mid-island makes sense, she said, "And it's in the best interest of the students."
The land in question is 10 acres located at Catherineberg, about halfway between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
Monsanto said she hopes that local government moves as swiftly to build the school as the House did to pass the bill.
"And I hope the St. John Capital Improvement Fund will come into play," she said, referring to money set aside by the Legislature for St. John infrastructure improvements.
The school's location within park boundaries will enhance its curriculum, Christian said.
"There's the sugar mill and different trees," he said.
Once the schools are relocated to Catherineberg, Sprauve School could then be used to bring together in one place all government offices scattered around St. John, Christian said. The Winston Wells Ballfield next to the school could be turned into a much-needed parking lot, he said.
Friends of the Park President Joe Kessler expressed disappointment at the vote. A land swap rather than a lease would be a better bet, he said.
"With a swap, we could have what's best for the kids and best for the park," Kessler said.
Christensen explained to those on the House floor that St. John's Julius E. Sprauve School is located in a heavily trafficked area.
"Two years ago a second-grade student was killed leaving a Christmas party," she said, referring to the tragic death of Javon Alfred.
Gohmert said he had hoped to consider an amendment to "convey" the park land to the V.I. government for the school, but that amendment was withdrawn.
The House Resource Committee approved the bill Oct. 10, and the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, chaired by Christensen, passed the same bill Sept. 20. Christensen held a House hearing about the bill on St. John July 9.
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 local government. At the July meeting, Christensen said leasing land was the most feasible way for the project to move forward.
The new school would serve students now attending Sprauve School in Cruz Bay and Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay, as well as those students who trek off daily on the ferry to St. Thomas to attend Eudora Kean High School.
The bill still needs approval by the U.S. Senate and President George W. Bush before negotiations can begin.
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Oct. 22, 2007 -- With only five minutes of statements by Delegate Donna M. Christensen and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas, the U.S. House of Representatives Monday approved a bill to authorize the Interior secretary to negotiate a lease with the local government for land within the V.I. National Park on St. John for a school.
"This bill is strongly supported by the people of the Virgin Islands and, in particular, the people of St. John," Christensen said during a session broadcast on C-SPAN.
She gave thanks to St. John residents Kristen Cox, Lorelei Monsanto, Alvis Christian and Ronnie Jones, who are all members of the One Campus Group and are working hard to make a combined school on St. John a reality.
Cox said she was "elated" that the bill passed.
'"I think everybody is coming together to agree on why we're trying to reach this goal," she said. Building a school complex mid-island makes sense, she said, "And it's in the best interest of the students."
The land in question is 10 acres located at Catherineberg, about halfway between Cruz Bay and Coral Bay.
Monsanto said she hopes that local government moves as swiftly to build the school as the House did to pass the bill.
"And I hope the St. John Capital Improvement Fund will come into play," she said, referring to money set aside by the Legislature for St. John infrastructure improvements.
The school's location within park boundaries will enhance its curriculum, Christian said.
"There's the sugar mill and different trees," he said.
Once the schools are relocated to Catherineberg, Sprauve School could then be used to bring together in one place all government offices scattered around St. John, Christian said. The Winston Wells Ballfield next to the school could be turned into a much-needed parking lot, he said.
Friends of the Park President Joe Kessler expressed disappointment at the vote. A land swap rather than a lease would be a better bet, he said.
"With a swap, we could have what's best for the kids and best for the park," Kessler said.
Christensen explained to those on the House floor that St. John's Julius E. Sprauve School is located in a heavily trafficked area.
"Two years ago a second-grade student was killed leaving a Christmas party," she said, referring to the tragic death of Javon Alfred.
Gohmert said he had hoped to consider an amendment to "convey" the park land to the V.I. government for the school, but that amendment was withdrawn.
The House Resource Committee approved the bill Oct. 10, and the House Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, chaired by Christensen, passed the same bill Sept. 20. Christensen held a House hearing about the bill on St. John July 9.
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 local government. At the July meeting, Christensen said leasing land was the most feasible way for the project to move forward.
The new school would serve students now attending Sprauve School in Cruz Bay and Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay, as well as those students who trek off daily on the ferry to St. Thomas to attend Eudora Kean High School.
The bill still needs approval by the U.S. Senate and President George W. Bush before negotiations can begin.
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.