Summer maintenance work kicked into high gear at JESS last week as workers complete projects before the September 3 start of school.
St. John students will find several improvements at their schools as they return to the classroom during the first week of September.
Students at both the Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay and the Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay will benefit from improved energy efficiency in the form of new energy efficient light bulbs, sensors in the classrooms that will automatically turn the lights off when no one is in the room, and new toilets and flush valves to reduce the amount of water used.
JESS students will feel a little cooler thanks to close to $40,000 of new air conditioning units that replaced older units.
Both JESS and GBS will be getting an electronic video system at their entry gates which will require visitors to be buzzed in. The systems are being implemented at all U.S. Virgin Islands elementary schools, and are not being installed in response to security issues at the two public St. John schools, Deputy Superintendent of Schools Joseph Sibilly explained.
“We just don’t want anyone walking in or out whenever they want,” he said.
Perhaps the largest project undertaken by the Department of Education this summer is at JESS, where the school’s exterior walkway is experiencing cracks in the concrete.
“It’s a safe condition; we have it shored up from before, so there’s nothing to be worried about, but we started getting cracks in the concrete, and the concrete doesn’t hold on to the rebar like it should,” said Sibilly. “We have it shored up from before. We have a structural engineer who has assured us of the safety.”
The project has been pushed back and will likely be undertaken while students are in school, as bids that initially came back for the project were too high.
“We considered the bids we got back nonresponsive, as they were way over what we expected,” said Sibilly. “We made some changes to our scope of work, so hopefully the new bids will come back in more responsive, where the funding would be allowable.”
Work will take place from 3 p.m. through the evening hours so as not to disrupt students. The project will involve the walkway being resupported with steel beams, and replastered.
Another major project at JESS was undertaken to correct issues the school had with sewage.
“We had a major sewage issue that affected the nurse’s office,” said Sibilly. “A couple lines were crossed over and everything would just back up inside the nurse’s office. We took care of that.”
GBS students will enjoy a safer play area thanks to a new drainage system.
“Now, if any runoff comes off the road, it should hit the drainage systems and not affect the play area,” said Sibilly. “Additionally, the Coral Bay Community Council will work with us to plant grass to make it more of a usable area.”
Other general maintenance at the Coral Bay elementary school, including painting, is approximately 80 percent complete, according to Sibilly.
Gifft Hill School, the island’s private school, is also undergoing improvements this summer.
Thanks to a $325,000 E-Rate grant, the entire phone and internet system is being rewired at both the upper and lower campuses, explained Interim Head of School/Lower Campus Principal Beth Knight.
The upper campus will benefit from a paved turnaround in the driveway, complete with solar lighting. Also at the upper campus, work is being finalized on the school’s kitchen, which should begin producing lunches for students sometime during the 2013-2014 school year, according to Knight.
At the lower campus, the recycled tire mulch at the school’s playground is being replaced with four tons of new green mulch.