The preliminary drawings for the proposed new St. John public K-12 school complex on Route 10 near the center of the island show the classroom for the upper grades will be in buildings terraced on the sloping north side of the property with playground and buildings for the primary grades, administration and auditorium in the center of the complex and athletic fields on the flattest area along the public road.
The 11 acre National Park Service site proposed for the new St. John K-12 School is on the north side of Centerline Road, Route 10, across from George Simmons Terrace between the Estate Adrian residential neighborhood and John Head Road, Route 206, froconnecting Route 10 with the North Shore Road through the V.I. National Park’s Estate Catherineburg sugar mill ruins. The property includes other historic sites which won’t be disturbed, according to officials.
CRUZ BAY — About 25 people heard the latest details of the government’s long-discussed plan to realize a new comprehensive Kindergarten through 12th Grade public school on St. John at a July 29 scoping meeting at the Julius E. Sprauve School cafeteria.
The V.I. Legislature passed Bill 27-0208 in 2008 which required the V.I. Department of Education to study the possibility of establishing instruction for students in K through 12th grades. Since then, the Office of the Governor and the Department of Public Works have collaborated with VIDE to conduct — thanks to a $200,000 technical assistance grant from the U.S. Department of Interior — a Land Use Study, a Space Planning Program and Environmental Studies of a site currently controlled by the National Park Service.
The Herman Farm is located in Estate Catherineburg and since it was deeded to the National Park Service with different restrictions than the original gift of deed creating V.I. National Park, has been identified as a possible location of a new St. John school.
Parcel No. 6A, No. 19 Cruz Bay Quarter is a roughly 11 acre parcel located along Centerline Road just east of the George Simmons Housing Community and west of the Estate Catherineburg Sugar Mill.
At the July 29 scoping meeting, project architect Jaredian Design Group’s John Woods shared the findings of archaeological surveys of the site as well as a proposed conceptual site plan.
“We are at this stage doing a full environmental study and phase one is a cultural resource survey, one of the most important surveys done on the site,” said Woods. “We also conducted animal and plant life surveys and found that no endangered species are found on the site. But if you know this site, you know it’s going to have the potential for cultural resources, which is what we found.”
In addition to the land’s deed allowing for use as a school, the Hammer Farm was identified as a possible site because it is located on the western boundary of VINP and would have less impact on shoreline resources, explained Woods.
“If this site is not appropriate, we will have to identify a different site, but what we are tasked with now is evaluating this site as the location for a new school,” Woods said.
Both a topographic and an archaeological study were done on the property as part of the first phase of the project to identify the best areas to locate the estimated 120,000 square foot of class room and administrative space.
The surveyors found historic and prehistoric materials mostly concentrated in the southeastern corner and along the eastern boundary of the property in push piles likely formed when Centerline Road was paved, Woods explained.
Most of the materials found on the site, about 42 percent, were marine shell, according to the Jaredian Design Group’s Land Use Study for the project. Other objects found on the site include ceramics, coral, glass, brick and plaster, according to the survey.
“Marine shell and coral were of the most common artifact classes recovered in this survey and their overall frequency contributes heavily to the distribution of materials,” according to the survey. “As these particular species were heavily utilized by both prehistoric and historic inhabitants of the Caribbean, their presence within the subject property is likely attributable to both prehistoric and historic utilization of the area.”
“Overall, though, the distribution of marine shell, coral and faunal bone is significantly restricted to the core site areas in the southeastern corner and along the eastern boundary of the subject property,” according to the archaeological survey.
There will be a second phase of surveys on the land, but the findings of this phase keep the site viable as an option for the location of a new St. John school, explained Woods.
“We have to do second phase and additional surveys but this site still remains a good candidate because we are not disturbing those historic and prehistoric sites,” said Woods. “But we must do the next phase of investigation to determine with greater accuracy how and where the most amount of artifacts are located.”
In creating an initial design concept for the site, Woods kept the buildings, parking areas and playing fields west of the historic findings.
“We don’t need to interfere with the historic findings east of the drainage area on the land,” said Woods. “The area to build is west of that drainage channel on the flat area of the site. The fields are on the lower area with the school on the hill.:
The conceptual site plan currently includes a combined baseball/football field, three sets of classroom buildings, an administrative building, an auditorium and gym building, a cafeteria buildings and a parking area.
“This is a conceptual site plan,” said Woods. “There were challenges but it worked and that was the goal.”
Up next, the team will continue environmental and archaeological studies, explained Woods.
“Our next phase after this is process is to continue environmental studies and continue discussions about a possible land swap,” said Woods.
National Park Service regional officials in Florida are currently examining the V.I. government’s archaeological survey findings and have been collaborating on the project since its inception, explained Department of Public Works Commissioner Darryl Smalls.
Officials are pleased with the progress on this long-discussed project, according to Smalls.
“We’ve done extensive research thus far and as we look at environmental studies this appears to be a very viable project that can be accomplished at this site,” Smalls said.
“There are more challenges ahead but overall I would like you to spread the word that we are serious about this process.”
The school is for the people and children of St. John, who should take part in the process, Smalls added.
“I hope this process continues to grow and grow and this is for the people of St. John,” said Smalls. “We can’t do this without public input. This is the first step to get a new school on the island of St. John.’
The public can view Woods’ conceptual site plan for a comprehensive St. John school as well as the team’s archaeological survey findings on the VIDE’s website www.vide.vi. Click “Initiatives” to view the land use document, St. John school presentation and demographics study.