Second Public “Scoping” Session on New St. John Public School Is Tonight

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The V.I. government is conducting meetings to get public input into negotiations with the federal government concerning a land swap for more than ten acres of federal property across from George Simmonds Terrace at Hammer Farm on Route 10, above. The next meeting is Tuesday, July 29, at the Julius E. Sprauve School at 5:30 p.m.

One of the hundreds of workers who commute from St. Thomas to St. John had a simple question at the first “scoping” meeting to plan the construction of a new public school on St. John conducted in May.

“Why can’t my child come to school with me on St. John while I’m working?”

For the V.I. government officials starting the formal process of acquiring a piece of property on Centerline Road in Hammer Farm from the U.S. government to build a new island educational complex, the question opened the discussion wide.

The Office of the Governor in partnership with the Departments of Education and Public Works will conduct the second public “scoping” meeting and present the findings of the  Phase I Archaeological Study for a suggested property for the school on Centerline Road across from George Simmonds Terrace on Tuesday, July 29, at the Julius E. Sprauve School cafeteria in Cruz Bay from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The V.I. government is conducting the meetings to get public input into negotiations with the federal government concerning a land swap for more than ten acres of federal property across from George Simmonds Terrace at Hammer Farm.

The federal property being proposed for transfer is on the north side of Route 10 west of the intersection with Route 206 — better known as the mostly gravel John Head Road which snakes down through Catherineberg to the North Shore Road at Little Cinnamon Bay.

There has been no public discussion of what V.I. government property the federal government might want in any exchange — and very little official discussion, according to several people involved.

“Moving Pretty Fast”
After years of promises, a new “mid-island“ St. John public school facility is moving closer to reality — with Gov. John P. deJongh actively involved as his eight-year administration nears its end.

“They are moving a lot faster than I thought they would,” said one St. John educator of the Government House-orchestrated bureaucratic process involving multiple territorial agencies and a host of federal rules and regulations involved in a proposed land swap between the territorial and federal governments.

“The work is moving pretty fast,” agreed another inside observer. “They did the topography; they did the archaeology.”

“We have some challenges with the property,” said Vance Pinney, project director at the Department of Public Works. “It’s a long process; part of that is the ‘scoping’. We are trying to get as much public comment as possible.”

Government House Priority?
With a Government House policy advisor assigned to shepherd negotiations with the federal government on a proposed land swap through the bureaucratic maze, the project goes to its second public “scoping” session Tuesday, July 29.

A series of “scoping” sessions or hearings are required for the process, explained Collette Monroe, the policy advisor. This is the second in a series of open meetings at which the public will have an opportunity to provide oral and written comments, she said.

“This is another opportunity afforded to the entire community to provide needed input on a proposed New St. John School and hear those concerns addressed which were raised at the initial meeting on May 15 where the concept was introduced,“ Monroe told St. John Tradewinds. “Ultimately, it is the direct collaboration with and input from St. John residents which will determine the final design for the school.”

Representatives from Departments of Education and Public Works, along with the architect of record, will be on hand to respond to comments and seek input from the public on the planned approach for a new school on the island of St. John and alternatives.

The first public session in May drew a large audience and raised issues such as whether the facility should be a “full” school serving preschool children and grades kindergarten through 12.

Should St. John Have “Full” K-12 School?
Part of the government’s internal debate is whether to make the new island school a “full school” serving grades kindergarten through 12, project director Pinney acknowledged.

“That still is in debate,” Pinney said. “This is the reason for the public scoping.”

As some saw the idea of a full school facility on the smallest U.S. Virgin Island as a St. John folly, the simple question from a St. Thomas resident working on St. John about bringing his kids with him to school in Love City prompted residents and government officials to consider all their options.

The public is urged to submit their questions and comments regarding a New School on St. John by visiting the Department of Education website at www.vide.vi and clicking on “Special Projects.”

Individuals may leave a comment and also review the New St. John School Land Use Study and the St. John Demographics Study and Analysis.