At a lengthy press conference in Christiansted on Friday, Gov. Kenneth Mapp laid out a preliminary plan for getting public schools ready for the 2018-2019 school year, a plan that should bring abbreviated double sessions to an end, Mapp said.
The plan calls for seven schools to be repaired before the scheduled start of next year’s classes on Sept. 4. Four more schools — which are assessed to have more than 50 percent damage and are slated for demolition — should have modular units in place by then.
“What I’m attempting to do on Sept. 4 is … we expect to be off double session,” Mapp said. “We expect to have more use and access to school class facilities that are repaired and are ready to go. These repairs that we’re going to make are not only going to be repairs based on what happened in terms of hurricane damage, but pre-existing conditions as well.”
Schools slated for repair include Joseph Gomez and Ulla Muller Elementary Schools on St. Thomas, as well as Alfredo Andrews, Alexander Henderson, Pearl B. Larsen and part of Eulalie Rivera Elementary Schools on St. Croix.
John H. Woodson Junior High School on St. Croix is also on the governor’s repair list.
Work at those facilities is considered temporary and will mirror the Emergency Home Repair program currently administered through the V.I. Housing Finance Authority.
“We’re doing that very same thing with the Department of Education, with these seven schools; getting them ready to be utilized, rehabbed. They will be safe and functional, that we can get off of double session,” Mapp said Friday.
Repairs done under that program are designed to make homes livable and keep occupants safe and free from exposure to the elements.
The governor said four other schools — Julius E. Sprauve School on St. John; Arthur Richards Junior High School and a portion of Rivera Elementary on St. Croix; E. Benjamin Oliver Elementary and Addelita Cancryn Junior High School on St. Thomas — qualify for demolition and reconstruction under guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Education.
The St. Thomas-St. John DOE Curriculum Center is included on the demolition list. Located in Estate Tutu, the curriculum center was also heavily damaged 23 years ago in Hurricane Marilyn and underwent extensive repairs.
At Friday’s press conference, Mapp described a multi-step process he said will likely lead to replacement of schools on the demolition list. It begins with temporary repairs to make the schools safe and functional, followed by an analysis of building conditions and cost comparisons.
Officials will then measure the price of repair against the cost of tearing down and building new schools.
“The cost for permanent repairs, including pre-existing conditions, will be meshed with what is costs to build a new school, and then determined that we’re at the 50 percent marker. And then we make a decision that we’re going to demolish that particular school plant and build a new school,” Mapp said.
He said more public school facilities may make it onto the demolition list before the process is over. In the case of two St. Thomas-St. John schools, mitigation, demolition and replacement may take considerably longer.
Sprauve School on St. John and Cancryn Junior High on St. Thomas will not be rebuilt in their current locations, Mapp said. Acquisition of private property on St. John will be pursued in the rebuilding process for Sprauve; property near the University of the Virgin Islands is sought for a rebuild of Cancryn.
If things go as planned, the property where Cancryn sits will be turned over the the Port Authority for expansion of an existing cargo port, Mapp said.
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