Elena Christian Junior High School on St. Croix has been closed indefinitely as concerns over the safety of students, faculty and staff continued to be expressed this week from the classroom to the highest levels of the government.
Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds Tuesday night made public her decision to close the school until further notice. Her decision followed a tour of the junior high school today "to review the work which was begun to mitigate the continuing problems with the facility."
Simmonds promised a full scale news conference to explain her most recent decision concerning Elena Christian Junior High and advised parents, students, faculty and staff to monitor media reports for information about the schools reopening.
For the past two weeks, recently uncovered structural problems on one wing of the school had prompted on again, off again classes. Classes were set to resume today after two private engineers assessed the facility and said it was safe for occupancy.
Simmonds decision to close the school indefinitely was also supported by Virgin Islands Congressional Delegate Donna Christiansen who in correspondence to the education commissioner underscored her grave concern about the problems at Christian Junior High.
"In light of the report and recommendations of the Department of Health, as well as conversations with representatives of OSHA, I see no other alternative but to call for the closure of the school, until repairs have been completed, which can be done during the Christmas holidays", the delegate wrote.
Christiansen further said that while she was concerned about the students need for class time, health and safety must come first. The delegate reminded Simmonds that the territory remains under a state of emergency and much of the damage was likely hurricane related and therefore federal assistance should be available.
Christiansen also said that mitigation funding particularly earmarked for Elena Christian Junior High has been available pending matching dollars from the local government.
"The recently provided U.S. Department of Interior capital projects grant should be able to provide this match," Christiansen said.
The delegate advised Simmonds that the assistant secretary of Education has already been put on notice that the territory will be lobbying for assistance in solving the myriad of problems in the school system.
"Although my concern is for all schools and students, you must be aware that Elena Christian Junior School holds a particular distinction and personal interest to me and my family", the delegate said. She pledged her support to working with the governor and the education department to reach a timely and acceptable resolution to the problems at Christian Junior High School.


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