The Virgin Islands public schools are prepared for students as they begin the 2017-18 School Year on Tuesday, September 5, 2017, reported Governor Kenneth Mapp and Education Commissioner Dr. Sharon McCollum at a press conference on Wednesday, August 16 attended by Lt. Governor Osbert Potter and Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) officials to include maintenance personnel.
“The community can expect that schools will be ready for instruction,” said Gov. Mapp. “Grounds, landscaping, extermination, water-testing and janitorial services will be completed.” The governor stressed that “continuous work will be taking place involving air condition installations and repairs, electrical repairs, roofing and more.”
According to information divulged in the opening of schools news conference, VIDE has approached the upkeep of school facilities in a three prong manner: firstly, by an in-house General School Maintenance project that is funded through a $1,750,000 appropriation by the 32nd Legislature which was released to the Department on July 31, 2017; secondly, through VIDE’s Engineering Office Capital Projects which provides the professional support services for ten (10) Capital Improvement Projects that are in various construction stages; and finally, VIDE has addressed school facilities by the embedded Insular ABCs’ Deferred Maintenance Reduction Program within the Departments Engineering Office. The Deferred Maintenance Team comprises four (4) individuals: two (2) construction specialists – one (1) per School District, and an Enterprise Asset Management System Coordinator alone with Program Manager.
About 64 student workers, 24 in the St. Thomas-St. John District and 40 in the St. Croix District were employed through the auspices of the Department of Labor to help get the schools ready for the September 5 opening, Gov. Mapp said. Additionally, a schedule of work to be completed prior to the opening of the new school year and a list of activities that will be on-going while students and school staff are present was released at the press conference.
“Work schedules will not interfere with instructions,” emphasized the governor. “If necessary, work will be completed evenings and weekends. I want to let the community know that we had to prioritize work to be completed.”
Commissioner McCollum introduced VIDE’s team that is responsible for maintenance and capital projects and assured parents, teachers and students that “We are ready and we are preparing for you and we are looking forward to a wonderful school year.”
Governor Mapp also announced that health insurance for Virgin Islands’ children and their parents will increase on October 1, 2017 under the federal Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With the transfer of the CHIP program from the local to the federal government, all children in the territory who meet income guidelines from birth through age 19 will be eligible for health insurance supported by federal dollars. With the transfer, 91.5 percent of each child’s medical costs will be paid for by the federal government, while 8.5 percent will be paid for by the local government, the governor said.
The Department plans to educate families on the federal children’s health insurance program at upcoming school orientation sessions, and will also hand out informational flyers for students to take home during the start of the 2017-18 school year. Information will also be relayed by representatives from the Department of Human Services through PTSA meetings in the schools.