ST. THOMAS — Use of the Charlotte Amalie High School will either be heavily restricted or altogether condemned for the 2019-2020 school, The Consortium has learned. Structural issues affecting the facility are manifold and place students in danger of being hurt.
According to a person with knowledge of the matter, C.A.H.S. students will most likely be moved to modular units being utilized by the Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, while students of the junior high school would have to be moved elsewhere, this person said. Where, exactly, ACJHS students would move to has not yet been determined.
Department of Education Director of Communications, Cynthia Graham, said D.O.E. knows of the problems at C.A.H.S. and plans on addressing them. “We are aware of the challenges at C.A.H.S., and we are meeting with stakeholders and C.A.H.S. teachers and informing them of the situation. When we have a concrete plan in place, it will be released to the public,” Ms. Graham said.
Some of the issues facing the C.A.H.S. building include the complete condemnation of Building B. During the 2018-2019 school year, 18 classrooms that are part of Building B were condemned. For the 2019-2020 school year, an additional 10 classrooms have been condemned, according to a document listing the issues at the facility that was shared with The Consortium. The building was deemed “structurally unsound,” and a structural integrity report performed on Building B includes the deficiencies, according to the document.
The document lists a myriad of other problems facing the C.A.H.S. structure, including no safe way for students to access Building C. Additionally, the facility has no field, track, gym, or tennis court to host sporting programs. And there is concern that the school may lose accreditation.
An executive order signed over the weekend by Acting Governor Tregenza Roach declared a state of emergency for exigency for the Department of Education. Mr. Roach signed the order to facilitate a swift procurement process for the repairing of schools for the 2019-2020 school year.
Meanwhile, Dept. of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin is on vacation until August 12, and therefore has been unable to address the public on the matters related to schools in disrepair, aside from a statement from D.O.E.’s communications director acknowledging issues at Charlotte Amalie.
Senator Alicia Barnes during a June 17 Committee on Government Operations, Consumer Affairs, Energy, Environment, and Planning Hurricane Preparedness meeting, recommended that a state of public exigency be declared to facilitate the timely repair of schools. However, in a release issued Monday, Ms. Barnes said while she appreciates the issuance of the executive order as it facilitates a streamlined procurement process for necessary school repairs, she is concerned that it is late and falls short by not addressing expedited permitting by the Department of Planning and Natural Resources (D.P.N.R.).
Ms. Barnes, a former D.P.N.R. commissioner, said the department’s building permit process is a key component and critical path in the school repair process and should have been included in the state of emergency declaration.
Government House did issue a notice to the public on the signed state of emergency declaration; the announcement was made by Ms. Barnes’s office.