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Senators Eye Replacing St. Croix Central

Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry testifies regarding a possible new St. Croix Central High School, with St. Croix School Superintendent Gary Molloy to the right.By fall of 2013, construction could begin on a new St. Croix Central High on another part of the same plot of land if an appropriation bill voted out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee makes it through the Senate and funding materializes.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael Thurland, seeks to appropriate $15.5 million over the next three years for planning and building the school and for operating a creative and performing arts school within it. The bill also appropriates $200,000 annually, in perpetuity, starting September 2013, to set up and run a creative and performing arts school within Central.
The bill also creates a permanent public school construction fund and identifies the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, composed of remitted federal rum excise taxes, as the funding source.
Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry testified in favor of the bill, saying a permanent construction fund may be a good way to ensure a continuing source of funds for school construction and repair.
“We …. agree that replacing the current St. Croix Central High School with a modern, new school will enhance the educational experience of the students who attend the school for many years," Terry said. "Even as we discuss replacing Central High School, there are several other schools that could also be replaced. John H. Woodson, Adelita Cancryn and Julius Sprauve immediately come to mind. Even more schools require major renovations and refurbishing."
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson asked Terry if Central needed replacement rather than renovation.
"It is an old structure that cannot accommodate the current technological expectations," Terry said. "Why not give our students the best learning environment if we can?”
Before a new school could be built on the proposed slice of land adjacent to the existing high school, the U.S. Department of Education will have to sign off, Terry said. The U.S. Education Department deeded the land to the V.I. Department of Education; that deed requires the land be used for agricultural research until 2024. The V.I. Education Department is in violation of that provision, so to build a school now will require the department to either buy the land outright or submit a recommendation to the federal Education Department that the land be used for a school, she said.
Public Works could complete the design phase of a new school in 18 to 24 months, "if the bill passes and funding materializes," said Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls.
The bill spreads the appropriation over several years, spending $5.5 million in 2011, $5 million in 2012; $5.2 million in 2013 and $200,000 each year thereafter.
The 2011 budget submitted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. allocates projected rum tax revenues in the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to servicing bonds and to the government’s general fund. After allocating all the expected revenue, the budget does not project a surplus, suggesting any funds to be spent in 2011 on planning for a new school may have to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Voting to send the bill out of committee and on for consideration by the Rules Committee were Sens. Nelson, Thurland, Craig Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Wayne James, Sammuel Sanes and Patrick Sprauve. Sen. Louis Hill was absent.

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Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry testifies regarding a possible new St. Croix Central High School, with St. Croix School Superintendent Gary Molloy to the right.By fall of 2013, construction could begin on a new St. Croix Central High on another part of the same plot of land if an appropriation bill voted out of the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee makes it through the Senate and funding materializes.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael Thurland, seeks to appropriate $15.5 million over the next three years for planning and building the school and for operating a creative and performing arts school within it. The bill also appropriates $200,000 annually, in perpetuity, starting September 2013, to set up and run a creative and performing arts school within Central.
The bill also creates a permanent public school construction fund and identifies the Internal Revenue Matching Fund, composed of remitted federal rum excise taxes, as the funding source.
Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry testified in favor of the bill, saying a permanent construction fund may be a good way to ensure a continuing source of funds for school construction and repair.
“We …. agree that replacing the current St. Croix Central High School with a modern, new school will enhance the educational experience of the students who attend the school for many years," Terry said. "Even as we discuss replacing Central High School, there are several other schools that could also be replaced. John H. Woodson, Adelita Cancryn and Julius Sprauve immediately come to mind. Even more schools require major renovations and refurbishing."
Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson asked Terry if Central needed replacement rather than renovation.
"It is an old structure that cannot accommodate the current technological expectations," Terry said. "Why not give our students the best learning environment if we can?”
Before a new school could be built on the proposed slice of land adjacent to the existing high school, the U.S. Department of Education will have to sign off, Terry said. The U.S. Education Department deeded the land to the V.I. Department of Education; that deed requires the land be used for agricultural research until 2024. The V.I. Education Department is in violation of that provision, so to build a school now will require the department to either buy the land outright or submit a recommendation to the federal Education Department that the land be used for a school, she said.
Public Works could complete the design phase of a new school in 18 to 24 months, "if the bill passes and funding materializes," said Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls.
The bill spreads the appropriation over several years, spending $5.5 million in 2011, $5 million in 2012; $5.2 million in 2013 and $200,000 each year thereafter.
The 2011 budget submitted by Gov. John deJongh Jr. allocates projected rum tax revenues in the Internal Revenue Matching Fund to servicing bonds and to the government's general fund. After allocating all the expected revenue, the budget does not project a surplus, suggesting any funds to be spent in 2011 on planning for a new school may have to be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget.
Voting to send the bill out of committee and on for consideration by the Rules Committee were Sens. Nelson, Thurland, Craig Barshinger, Carlton "Ital" Dowe, Wayne James, Sammuel Sanes and Patrick Sprauve. Sen. Louis Hill was absent.