Virgin Islands Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin looks forward to welcoming students and staff back to school following the Labor Day holiday.
With the unexpected strength of Hurricane Dorian on Aug. 28 that potentially threatened the Sept. 3 start of the 2019-2020 school year, Berry-Benjamin and education leaders in both districts conducted two days of assessments of the territory’s public schools to ensure schools would open on time.
“Our schools were thoroughly assessed in both districts and, while there was some minor water damage and debris resulting from the storm, nothing we have found would impact us opening the school year as planned,” the commissioner said.
In addressing the question of school readiness, she pointed out that it has much more to do with matters that are visible to the public.
“School readiness is beyond fixing infrastructural and maintenance issues, as well as doing landscaping and correcting other challenges that might be readily visible on our campuses,” she said. “While these are important parts of the big picture, school readiness is also ensuring classrooms are adequately staffed, meals are ready to be served, bus and ferry transportation are in place for students, and much more — all of which the Department of Education has secured. We are ready.”
Berry-Benjamin said the Department of Education, which conducts routine, year-round maintenance of its facilities, has had to prioritize projects based on limited funding it receives in its annual budget.
“Given the age of many of our school buildings, we can expect that something will always need improvement,” she said. “While we would like to, we simply cannot address all of the issues at our schools at once. Therefore, we prioritize our work based on available funding, and level of safety risk to students and staff. We ask for your understanding and continued support as we conduct maintenance year-round and a variety of larger projects over the next few years — culminating in the construction of new schools.”
For information on school orientations, school bus pick-up times, changes in the configurations of the territory’s public schools for the 2019-2020 school year and more, visit www.vide.vi