The V.I. Department of Education announced Wednesday that the first crucial hurdle had been passed to assure territory schools can open in the fall without double sessions.
Eleven public schools in the territory have remained closed because of last year’s hurricanes, forcing students to share the campuses that remain open, keeping split, half-day schedules.
The contract for the engineering, construction and installation of 240 temporary classrooms has been finalized. The agreement also provides for 19 large Sprung structures that can serve as cafeterias and gymnasiums.
Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum told senators in mid-January the purchase order for the classrooms would take six months to get through the Department of Property and Procurement. Senators expressed concern that if the contracts took that long, schools would still be in double sessions next fall.
In a news release Wednesday, McCollum touted the agreement.
“This gives us assurances that we will have all the modular classrooms and Sprung shelters ready for the opening of the school year and our children will return to a normal, full school day.”
The V.I. Department of Education anticipates that the modular classrooms will begin arriving in late June.
“They will begin shipping them five at a time as they come off the assembly line,” McCollum said. “We plan to move them to the school sites at night for the least disruption of traffic.”
The contract with AECOM Caribe LLP signed Tuesday provides for site preparation, layout design, manufacturing, installation and all other necessary measures to deliver turnkey structures to the Department of Education. The cost is not to exceed $117.9 million and is being funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency Public Assistance Program and proceeds from the Government of the Virgin Islands’ insurance policy.
Gov. Kenneth Mapp, who signed off on the contract, said he hoped the temporary classrooms will allow the territory’s schools to return to a state of normalcy.
“The Department of Education will be working hard throughout the summer to get these new classrooms ready for our students,” he said. “The contract calls for substantial completion of this project by Aug. 28.”