Swift remediation in time for new year at St. John Christian Academy

PINE PEACE — It was less than a week after Hurricane Maria scattered relief workers and first responders trying to get St. John back on its feet when a crew of workmen appeared on the roof of a tiny church compound.

They came daily with a generator, hammers and drills to put up the roof at St. John Christian Academy. The island’s parochial school was getting ready for the start of a new year filled with uncertainty and determination.

Much of the recovery work could be seen from the gas station across the road. The crew of less than a dozen men moved steadily across the L-shaped roof, putting plywood in place.

By the weekend, they descended to ground level, patching up covered walkways.
Most of the work was done in seven days.

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Inside the principal’s office, Pastor Reginald Joseph swept around his desk, amid piles of books. He spoke to a visitor about the damage caused by Maria on Sept. 19 and her powerful predecessor, Hurricane Irma, on Sept. 6. At the end of the walkway, a team with a ladder whirled away with a drill.

Joseph is pastor of Cruz Bay Baptist Church as well as principal of the Christian Academy.

“We lost our entire roof, lost the computer lab. But, hey — that’s how it is,” Joseph said.

The push was on to have things up and running by Oct. 2 when classes were set to begin.

In a religious school, it would be reasonable to think of those seeking help from above.

The academy principal said this time help came from abroad. The daughter of a former academy teacher connected with Joseph from the U.S. mainland and asked what sort of help was needed.

Her response helped provide some resources to aid in a quick remediation, he said.

At the end of the last school year St. John Christian Academy had 70 students. About 35 parents showed up for a post-hurricane meeting Sept. 28.

The pastor said he didn’t know if 35 parents showing up at a meeting meant 35 students in grades K – 6 would return. “Some have gone to the states and we’re hoping that they return,” he said.