The 19th Virgin Islands Board of Education conveys a hearty welcome to all Virgin Islands education professionals and students for the 2020-2021 school year.
“This school year will be like no other in the history of the Virgin Islands,” said Arah C. Lockhart, board chairperson of the V.I. Board of Education (VIBE). “The challenges which every student, teacher, education administrator, counselor and parent will face this year [are] unlike any other in the history of this territory or nation. Nevertheless, we all must embrace this new dynamic and strive to enhance learning opportunities at every opportunity,” she said.
The VIBE members acknowledge the efforts of the Virgin Islands Department of Education to facilitate remote learning across the territory and its recognition of the necessity of ensuring the health and safety of everyone involved in the teaching/learning dynamic. The board also recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic occurred in the middle of the V.I. Department of Education’s attempts to repair the damages caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria, and it still plagues the community.
Nevertheless, the VIBE publicly affirms its commitment to its statutory responsibility for overseeing and ensuring the proper management, maintenance and operation of schools. As such, it has been meeting and is in constant communication with not only Commissioner Raquel Berry-Benjamin of the DOE but also district and school leaders.
As a result of these communications and inquiries, the VIBE has the following concerns:
First and foremost, all students must have devices and internet connectivity to participate fully in remote learning. The VIBE has asked Commissioner Berry Benjamin and her team to present the plan for students who will not have devices but will have to wait before additional computers arrive on island. Considering the amount of learning loss students have experienced since schools closed in March, it is imperative that the DOE reaches every student and every household to facilitate learning and provide critical services to address their academic, social and emotional needs.
The VIBE recommends K-12 schools remain close to in-school instruction for the first marking period to control the prevention and spread of COVID 19. VIBE acknowledges the utilization of distance learning technological devices, hybrid or blended models as options to continue to provide effective learning opportunities. The VIBE also requires extensive training for school personnel before school starts, which focuses on best distance learning practices, equity and attention to the socio-emotional wellness of students.
The board also recognizes that the shift in teaching and learning from face-to-face to remote instruction will require ongoing training, and it encourages the Department of Education to continue its efforts and to reach out to parents who are critical in the students getting the most out of their learning experiences.
In conclusion, while DOE has requested a suspension of parts of the promotion policy, especially with respect to grading, the VIBE has not agreed to do so at this time. The board will continue to regularly communicate with DOE to ensure that once all pertinent information is received, its decisions will be based on the most recent information and will be in the best interests of students and staff.
“The VIBE contends that as this new school year begins in this new digital environment efforts must be focused on supporting and facilitating student learning,” said Lockhart. “We must ensure that all persons involved in the educational process much focus on the essential skills and knowledge needed for future success, on teacher preparation, and on adjusting and embracing a new way of educating students in the V.I.,” she said.
Arah C. Lockhart, chairman
Kyza A. Callwood MPA, vice-chairman
Winona A. Hendricks, secretary
St. Croix Members
Winona A. Hendricks
Terrence T. Joseph
Mary L. Moorhead
Martial Webster Esq.
St. Thomas-St. John Members
Kyza A. Callwood MPA
Judy M. Gomez Esq.
Arah C. Lockhart
Milton Potter, executive director
Emmett Hansen II, associate executive director
St. Croix Office
1123 King Street
Christiansted, VI 00820
Telephone: 772-4144; Fax: 772-2895
St. Thomas Office
P.O Box 11900
Dronningens Gade Nos. 60B, 61 and 62
St. Thomas, VI 00801
Telephone: 774-4546; Fax: 774-3384