The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved a $242.5 million project to rebuild Arthur A. Richards Junior High School on St. Croix, according to FEMA and Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett. Hurricane Maria’s winds and rains left Arthur Richards Junior High School in ruins in September 2017. FEMA and the territory made it a priority to assess damage to the school’s six buildings and grounds, collaborate to build out temporary modular classrooms for students and ultimately replace the school.
FEMA approved the replacement of Arthur Richards in 2020. Demolition of the Frederiksted school also began in 2020.
“Collaboration and diligence between FEMA and the territory has laid the foundation for a new Arthur Richards Junior High School. We stand firm in our commitment to help the U.S. Virgin Islands repair and rebuild schools that will provide a safe and modern environment for the territory’s children. Building schools smarter and stronger will ensure children return to classrooms quicker after future storms,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Recovery Director Kristen Hodge in a FEMA statement.
FEMA has awarded $209.2 million through its Public Assistance program toward the territory’s plan to rebuild Arthur Richards. Insurance proceeds will cover $10 million and a non-federal cost share of 10 percent will cover remaining costs for the project to replace Arthur Richards, according to FEMA. The replacement of Arthur Richard envisions rebuilding the school at the site of the Evelyn Williams School in Mount Pleasant on St. Croix.
“The Office of Disaster Recovery thanks FEMA for this obligation which will set the standard for new school construction in the Territory in accordance with the Department of Education’s Facilities Master Plan. This was a monumental joint effort which has provided funding for the first new school reconstruction as we work to modernize schools across the territory,” said U.S. Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery Director Adrienne L. Williams-Octalien.
As of January 5, 2022, FEMA has obligated a combined $444 million for emergency and permanent repairs to public school facilities damaged during the 2017 Category 5 hurricanes.
“There has been tremendous effort to come to this place. My office has been honored to work with the Government of the Virgin Islands, the Biden Administration leadership team at FEMA along with the professional staff at the Appropriations Committee under the leadership of Subcommittee Chairwoman Lucille Roybal-Allard,” Plaskett said in a statement Thursday. She said FEMA had originally offered $148 million to rebuild the school.
According to Plaskett, Gov. Albert Bryan’s Office of Disaster Recovery along with the V.I. government’s consultants at Witt Obrien insisted that FEMA was not using the correct formula to evaluate the cost to rebuild our critical infrastructure. Her office reportedly organized a summit between FEMA, the V.I. government, and the appropriate professional staff in Congress to have FEMA re-evaluate the figures for rebuilding our critical infrastructure. Since then, FEMA has come to a $61.2 million higher figure that is appropriate for the children of the Virgin Islands, Plaskett said.