Someday the territory may see a new post-high school career and technical school open, offering two-year associates degrees in trade-oriented fields like refrigeration, auto-mechanics and the culinary arts, if a bill approved in committee Thursday becomes law. No funding currently exists for the project, and the bill does not identify or appropriate any funds.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Alvin Williams authorized the governor to execute an agreement to establish such a technical school on St. Thomas, and once it is established, to offer scholarships and subsidies to the school.
"While the dream may be to attend college, not everyone has the resources at hand to pay or afford college tuition fees," Williams said in a statement after the hearing. Having a local technical school that offers degrees would give residents a chance to compete for jobs that now often require bringing in expertise from outside the territory, he said.
Sarah Mayhurt, deputy commissioner of curriculum and instruction for the Education Department, testified that a technical school is "a very good idea," but she said "a far more pressing need” was “the rehabilitation and revitalization of our existing career technical facilities and programs."
V.I. Career and Technical Education Board Chairman Daniel McIntosh testified that his board supported the concept of a school, so long as it was designed well, in conjunction with the CTE, the University of the Virgin Islands and private industry, to ensure all work together properly. The CTE board would like to see a school considered in both districts, rather than just St. Thomas, he said.
McIntosh suggested subsidies and scholarships mentioned in the bill be removed for the time being, until some source of funding is identified. He also said the government should consider retrofitting an existing building instead of building a new one, noting “there are adequate structures in both districts.”
The committee approved an amendment from Williams to require the government to send out a request for proposals within 90 days, then approved the bill, sending it on for consideration by the Rules and Judiciary Committee with a favorable recommendation.
Voting yes were Sens. Shawn-Michael Malone, Carlton "Ital" Dowe and Janette Millin-Young. Voting no were Sens. Craig Barshinger and Neville James. Sens. Louis Patrick Hill and Sammuel Sanes were absent.
The committee held a bill to establish a dual enrollment program, whereby students would be able to earn college credits at UVI while still enrolled in high school. Mayhurt and UVI President David Hall both testified in support of the concept, with Mayhurt saying Education is already discussing something similar with the university.
Hall and Mayhurt both raised the caveat that there would be costs to creating such a program, and there would need to be money for books and tuition, unless either parents or UVI absorbed the additional expenses.
The bill was held for amendment at the request of its sponsor, Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson.