The U.S. Department of Interior has reaffirmed its commitment to work with the Virgin Islands government to make the development of a new school on St. John a reality, said Governor John deJongh last week.
Anthony Baubata, Interior’s Assistant Secretary for Insular Areas, voiced his support of Governor deJongh’s plan on a recent trip to the Virgin Islands, and pledged to assist the territory’s government in achieving the land swap necessary to facilitate development of the new school.
The proposal, which involves turning over land in Estate Grange on St. Croix to the National Park Service in exchange for a St. John development site, dates back to 2007.
Last week, following a meeting with Interior officials, including Baubata, the governor discussed the many benefits of freeing up space where the Julius E. Sprauve School is currently located on St. John.
Moving the school to a different location will ease traffic congestion in Cruz Bay and free up land that has great potential for both tourism and agricultural use, according to deJongh.
Baubata said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has affirmed a “new commitment” to move forward with the project, and work closely with the deJongh- Francis administration to get a new school built.
Assistant Secretary Baubata recently held meetings with the governor’s senior officials, Department of Interior staff, representatives of the Trust for Public Lands, National Park Service regional director, local officials of the V.I. National Park as well as Education Commissioner La Verne Terry and Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls to advance the project.
“We’re all moving in a direction where we are recommitted, we’re re-energized to try and make sure the land is available for residents of St. John so we can build a public school there for the children of the community,” Baubata said during his visit to the territory.
DeJongh said Interior Department officials have supported his goal for a new school because they recognize the positive impact the plan will have on the St. John community.
The plan “addresses education, agriculture, and tourism,” the governor said, adding those many benefits are the reason the Interior Department is “truly behind this project.”
Baubata has “clearly been extremely supportive” because “it’s something that he saw the value of,” the governor said.