Guy H. Benjamin School Is Unlikely To Reopen Gov. Mapp Acknowledges

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ST. THOMAS — The hopes of reopening the public school in Coral Bay were officially dashed by Gov. Kenneth Mapp during a July 1 appearance on a radio talk show.

“No,” Gov. Mapp said definitively when responding to a caller asking if reopening the Guy Benjamin Elementary School was possible. 

It was likely that more public schools would be closed in the territory under his administration given the present set of circumstances, the chief executive added.

Gov. Mapp cited information from Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum that underlined a sharp decline in public school enrollment over the past few years.

“We’re not going to reopen the school in Coral Bay,” the governor said. “The reality is that the number of students in public education is drastically down.”

20 Percent Enrollment Drop
Those statements are supported by a study released by the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands in 2014 showing a 20 percent drop in enrollment. The shift has left classrooms without students or teachers and has also left the government to absorb utility and maintenance costs for unused classroom space, according to the study.

“We’re looking at paring some schools and doing classroom consolidation,” he said. “The numbers are really down and so the numbers for physical plant usage have to come down accordingly.”

Guy H. Benjamin School, which first opened as the Benjamin Franklin school, was closed in June 2014 under the administration of former Governor John de Jongh.

Despite its high level of academic achievement, Education officials decided to close the school because of low enrollment and continuing difficulty in getting enough teachers on staff, they said.

Coral Bay students were transferred to the Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay, starting in August 2014.