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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesCentral High Contingency Plan Includes Possible Relocation

Central High Contingency Plan Includes Possible Relocation

Education officials are working on a contingency plan for Central High School students – including the possibility of relocating students and classes – in case the school is not ready to reopen next week.

Classes at the school were closed Tuesday for the rest of the week after a sporadic outbreak of an unidentified odor forced early closure several times in the preceding weeks and sent dozens of faculty and students to the emergency room.

Officials from Education met Wednesday with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Department of Education, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Public Works, VITEMA and the V.I. Waste Management Authority. The group met to map out a strategy for inspecting the Central High School campus and adjoining areas to determine the origin of the foul odor.

In the meantime, the Department of Education is also planning what steps to take if the investigation isn’t successful, including a possible relocation of students and staff, according to a news release from the department.

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“The department is gravely concerned about the situation at Central High and assures parents that the safety and health of the staff and students there is our top priority,” Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory said. “For the last two days, we have been reviewing all of our options and will let the parents know as soon as possible what the plan is for resuming school."

"In the meantime, we encourage parents and students to stay tuned to local media outlets for updates," she added, encouraging students "to use this time to catch up on their academic assignments and to stay energized for V.I. Territorial Assessment of Learning testing, which was to run through the week."

"We will keep everyone informed of rescheduled testing dates,” Frett-Gregory said.

The commissioner pledged the department would provide all support necessary to the school’s students and staff during this process.

“This is an unfortunate situation for all, but I want to offer my assurance that we will get through this, and the department will provide all the support necessary for the school,” Frett-Gregory said.

Education and DPNR have spent several weeks testing air quality at the school and in the neighborhood, and have been unable to pin down the source of the odor. They have ruled out Hovensa, determined that the odor has not been noticed in the surrounding area, and reported that the sporadic nature of the occurrences have made identifying the source more difficult.

Besides causing classes to be dismissed early on multiple occasions, the periodic outbreaks have also caused some students and faculty to go to the emergency room at Juan F. Luis Hospital to be checked for a range of symptoms, including dizziness, skin irritation, a burning sensation in the lungs and nausea.

Gov. John deJongh Jr., who sat in on the Wednesday’s interdepartmental meeting, said the officials are trying to work systematically.

"In the continuing effort to address this situation, DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes and VITEMA Director Elton Lewis led (Wednesday’s) meeting to develop a plan of protocol to investigate, identify and then eliminate the source of the odor. We will be meeting again (Thursday) due to the severity of the situation,” deJongh said.

“Investigative teams have been onsite at Central High School and have been canvassing businesses in the immediate area around the school. The odor is only affecting the Central High School area, as far as we can tell. By employing a systematic approach, we will be able to determine the root cause of the problem,” deJongh said.

DeJongh asked parents of CHS students to bear with the team while the investigation continues. He said he has spoken to the presidents of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers and the Parent-Teacher Association to provide updated information on the steps being taken to address the problem.

The governor also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Kendall Griffith and the medical staff at the Juan F. Luis Hospital, who deJongh said deserved "tremendous kudos" for their responsiveness and professionalism in dealing with the number of students with parents who went to the emergency room for treatment on Tuesday.

"We are determined to solve this problem quickly so that Central High School can reopen and a level of stability can be reestablished for educators, students and their families," he said.

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Education officials are working on a contingency plan for Central High School students – including the possibility of relocating students and classes – in case the school is not ready to reopen next week.

Classes at the school were closed Tuesday for the rest of the week after a sporadic outbreak of an unidentified odor forced early closure several times in the preceding weeks and sent dozens of faculty and students to the emergency room.

Officials from Education met Wednesday with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, the Department of Education, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Department of Public Works, VITEMA and the V.I. Waste Management Authority. The group met to map out a strategy for inspecting the Central High School campus and adjoining areas to determine the origin of the foul odor.

In the meantime, the Department of Education is also planning what steps to take if the investigation isn't successful, including a possible relocation of students and staff, according to a news release from the department.

“The department is gravely concerned about the situation at Central High and assures parents that the safety and health of the staff and students there is our top priority,” Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory said. “For the last two days, we have been reviewing all of our options and will let the parents know as soon as possible what the plan is for resuming school."

"In the meantime, we encourage parents and students to stay tuned to local media outlets for updates," she added, encouraging students "to use this time to catch up on their academic assignments and to stay energized for V.I. Territorial Assessment of Learning testing, which was to run through the week."

"We will keep everyone informed of rescheduled testing dates,” Frett-Gregory said.

The commissioner pledged the department would provide all support necessary to the school’s students and staff during this process.

“This is an unfortunate situation for all, but I want to offer my assurance that we will get through this, and the department will provide all the support necessary for the school,” Frett-Gregory said.

Education and DPNR have spent several weeks testing air quality at the school and in the neighborhood, and have been unable to pin down the source of the odor. They have ruled out Hovensa, determined that the odor has not been noticed in the surrounding area, and reported that the sporadic nature of the occurrences have made identifying the source more difficult.

Besides causing classes to be dismissed early on multiple occasions, the periodic outbreaks have also caused some students and faculty to go to the emergency room at Juan F. Luis Hospital to be checked for a range of symptoms, including dizziness, skin irritation, a burning sensation in the lungs and nausea.

Gov. John deJongh Jr., who sat in on the Wednesday's interdepartmental meeting, said the officials are trying to work systematically.

"In the continuing effort to address this situation, DPNR Commissioner Alicia Barnes and VITEMA Director Elton Lewis led (Wednesday's) meeting to develop a plan of protocol to investigate, identify and then eliminate the source of the odor. We will be meeting again (Thursday) due to the severity of the situation,” deJongh said.

“Investigative teams have been onsite at Central High School and have been canvassing businesses in the immediate area around the school. The odor is only affecting the Central High School area, as far as we can tell. By employing a systematic approach, we will be able to determine the root cause of the problem,” deJongh said.

DeJongh asked parents of CHS students to bear with the team while the investigation continues. He said he has spoken to the presidents of the St. Croix Federation of Teachers and the Parent-Teacher Association to provide updated information on the steps being taken to address the problem.

The governor also expressed his gratitude to Dr. Kendall Griffith and the medical staff at the Juan F. Luis Hospital, who deJongh said deserved "tremendous kudos" for their responsiveness and professionalism in dealing with the number of students with parents who went to the emergency room for treatment on Tuesday.

"We are determined to solve this problem quickly so that Central High School can reopen and a level of stability can be reestablished for educators, students and their families," he said.