Gov. Albert Bryan Jr. toured three schools on St. Croix on Monday, a preliminary walk-through to look at the progress of repairs at three: Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, John H. Woodson Junior High School, and St. Croix Central High School.
The 2021-2022 school year is scheduled to begin Aug. 9, and schools across the territory have experienced years of wear and tear, and are still recovering from damage from two major hurricanes, Maria and Irma, which hit in 2017.
“This morning I started my meandering through our schools to see the conditions. I went through with mixed emotions. On the one hand, school is going to be ready to be open,” Bryan said. “When you walk through these schools you really realize that our effort has to be that we build schools of the future that are conducive to learning for our students.”
Bryan said he is impressed with the work that is being done with roofs, cleaning the classrooms, putting on a fresh coat of paint, and adding a new library.
“The reality is the work that we are talking about is intensive and it is going to be a long time coming,” said Bryan. “I could never say that I will be pleased with the state of the schools in our territory. We just try to do the best with the old stack that we have been given and try to work out the problems that we have.”
Some of the repairs Bryan saw included the addition of a library at Claude O. Markoe Elementary and the repair of that school’s cafeteria. Bryan also noted that extensive plumbing work is being done, digging out old, cast iron pipes and refitting classrooms with new electrical wiring.
“It goes way beyond the cosmetics of just painting the walls and repairing the roof. We need new school infrastructure. That has never been more evident than before,” said Bryan.
“The good news is we have a lot of resources to continue to fix schools, put in new air conditioners, new bathroom fixtures and ventilation systems. All of that will continue, but repairs will be going on for quite some time because these schools are in bad shape”.
Bryan said that what is on his mind is the COVID-19 Delta variant and how it may affect the reopening of schools.
“Aug. 9 seems like a very close day, and I think that we are going to be in this situation for another 30 days where we are going to have numbers,” Bryan said. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed, I want to see the students back in school, but I brace myself for this ever-changing climate that we are dealing with.”