After several school closures in February and March, St. Croix Central High School has been closed until further notice and students will continue classes at the St. Croix Educational Complex – possibly until the end of the school year.
In preparation for Tuesday’s move, Central students and staff were given a few hours Monday morning to remove books and personal belongings from the CHS campus.
Other visitors were denied entrance and were instructed by a guard from the Department of Planning and Natural Resources at the gate to contact Government House.
Over the last several years, students, staff and parents have complained about noxious odors around CHS. In 2009, a rotten-egg odor was attributed to sulfur dioxide fumes from a Hovensa incinerator.
In 2011, three schools in the area – Charles H. Emanuel Elementary School, John H. Woodson Junior High School and CHS were closed for a day due to a chemical-like smell in the air. The origin of the intermittent odor was not determined and air samples collected by the U.S. Coast Guard Team working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency showed very low concentrations of sulfur dioxide, a level too low to pose a public health threat.
This year, school was dismissed at Central three times last month because of what some describe as a sewer-like stench. The school has been closed since Mar. 18 after more than 30 students went to the hospital complaining of symptoms ranging from dizziness to vomiting.
Federal and local environmental and health officials have investigated the problem and last week tentatively identified an abandoned sewer line with manholes on the Central campus and another nearby as the source of the odor. However, nothing has been announced officially.
During a press conference last Friday at Government House on St. Thomas, Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory and Superintendent of St. Croix Schools Gary Molloy outlined a plan to accommodate Central students at Complex with split sessions for both high schools until the end of the school year, in case it becomes necessary.
Complex classes will begin at 7:30 a.m. and end at 12:25 p.m. Central students and staff will report to Complex Tuesday at 12:30 p.m for lunch and attend classes from 1 – 6 p.m.
On Monday morning, no odor was detected at the school by the Source reporter. However, a CHS faculty member said she was familiar with the smell and thought the odor was from the abandoned sewer. Because of the work involved to remediate the situation would take some time, she didn’t expect classes to resume at Central this year.
Jean Greaux from the Governor’s Office said that about 70 teachers and 200 high students visited the CHS campus Monday morning to remove personal items and supplies.