After being closed for a year due to COVID-19, public schools in the St. Croix District will open for in-person instruction beginning Tuesday, March 2, according to the Department of Education.
Schools in the St. Thomas/St. John District are not reopening yet, but may soon.
In a statement issued Friday, St. Croix Insular Superintendent Carlos McGregor said, “All schools received a favorable evaluation to open” after undergoing a series of inspections by the Health Department’s Environmental Health Division, the Fire Service and the Board of Education.
The Board of Education reportedly passed a resolution Feb. 25 certifying the reopening of the district’s schools.
“It is a proud day for all of us in the St. Croix District,” McGregor said. “The countless hours of meticulous planning by the district team, school administrators and teachers demonstrate our commitment to educating our students in a safe and healthy environment. The most effective teaching and learning happen when students and teachers are physically in school, and we are happy to be on the road to returning to a sense of normalcy.”
Beginning Tuesday, PreK-1st grade, special education self-contained, and second- and fourth-year certificate students in career and technical education will resume in-person instruction, five days a week. Beginning the following Tuesday, March 9, students in 2nd and 3rd grades will resume in-person instruction, five days a week.
School schedules are as follows:
Pearl B. Larsen Pre K-8: 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Juanita Gardine K8: 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Eulalie R. Rivera K8: 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Arthur A. Richards K8: 8:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Ricardo Richards Elementary: 8:30 a.m. – 1 :30 p.m.
Lew Muckle Elementary: 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Alfredo Andrews Elementary: 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Claude O. Markoe Elementary: 8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Career & Technical Education Center: 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
General education students in grades 4-12 will continue learning virtually. McGregor said parents of students in grades PreK-3rd retain the option of continuing to have their children learn virtually.
Early preparations for students and staff to safely return to in-person instruction began last summer when the Department received funding through Congress’s CARES Act. Since then, schools have been outfitted with the necessary items in compliance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention requirements for in-person learning:
– Signs throughout campuses reminding students and staff of safety protocols, i.e., staying six feet apart, washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water, wearing masks, etc.,
– Floor decals or paintings depicting the six-feet social-distancing requirement, – Dispensers strategically placed throughout campuses to readily provide soap, hand sanitizer and paper towels,
– Hand washing stations,
– Classrooms with students’ desks arranged six feet apart and teachers’ desks outfitted with an L-shaped Plexiglas barrier,
– All bathrooms fully repaired and functioning.
McGregor said schools have created an action plan that includes procedures “from the time students, faculty and staff arrive on campus until they leave the school grounds for the day.” These include:
– Temperature checks when arriving,
– Procedures for breakfast and lunch,
– Mask breaks,
– Protocols for addressing students and employees with an elevated temperature.
Breakfast and lunch will be provided to students who return to campus and those who continue to learn from home.
When it comes to transportation, however, McGregor said parents will be required to transport their children to and from school. Students whose parents are unable to provide transportation will continue to learn virtually. Bus transportation will be provided only for self-contained Special Education students, until further notice.
All students are expected to follow their school’s uniform policy; a two-week grace period will be granted to students to ensure compliance with uniform requirements.
“As the Department of Education continues to work closely with our partners at the V.I. Department of Health, the Office of the Governor, the V.I. Board of Education, and all stakeholders, we are pleased the time has come when we can safely return our students and staff to their school campuses,” Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin said. “We will continue to follow the guidance of health professionals as we move into this phase of educating students during the pandemic.”
The Department of Education said dates for the return to in-person instruction in the St. Thomas-St. John District will be announced shortly.