Sept. 22, 2005 – Administrators from the John H. Woodson Junior High School Wednesday conducted a walk-through inspection of Elena Christian Junior High School where Woodson students will attend while problems at Woodson are assessed and addressed.
Woodson closed its doors two weeks ago because of complaints involving the spread of infectious mold. While a private contractor and health officials try to find out the extent of any health of safety threat posed by the mold, officials from the Department of Education have decided to send the students and the staff of Woodson Junior High to Elena Christian.
With classes set to resume on Monday, Woodson Principal Vaughn Hewitt took his administrators on a tour of their borrowed space. He said their task is to mesh their operation with that already in place at Elena Christian. "We had a chance to go around to set schedules, set classroom placements, we had a chance to chat with administrators and with some teachers," the principal said Wednesday.
And while the accommodations are expected to be tight, Hewitt said he wanted to assure his staff, the students and their parents that the move to the new school will "not be forever."
Andrea McIntosh, president Woodson Parents Teachers Association, earlier this week, appealed to Woodson parents to make an extra effort to support the move to the new building and help their children make up for lost time.
"Be supportive of what's going on now. Try to get the children back in the classrooms, support them in their homework lessons, keep abreast of what's going on in the schools, stay in touch with the teachers. Come out to the schools and see what's happening in the schools so we can try avoiding any situations like this in the future," McIntosh said Tuesday.
McIntosh also said contractors at Environmental Concepts, Inc. are now putting together a clean-up plan to eradicate the spread of mold at the old building. Attempts at driving back the mold have been tried before, according to statements made by the district school superintendent and the education commissioner.
This time, Hewitt said, the clean up would be more thorough.
The Woodson situation is bringing legislative action from Sen. Neville James.
James, chairperson of the Economic Development, Planning and Environmental Protection committee, on Wednesday, submitted an amendment to the School Management Accountability section of the V.I. Code to mandate that schools must be deemed ready to accept students by the Department of Health, Division of Environmental Health, prior to the opening of classes.
James at a committee hearing Wednesday called the situation at Woodson "the ultimate embarrassment for Virgin Islanders."
Sen. Usie Richards, who has a daughter at Woodson, said at the same hearing that the conditions at the school "demonstrated clearly the incompetence" of some people in the department of education.
He said the senate has set aside funds for various projects but the education department "fails to execute and continues to be negligent."
Richards urged fellow senators to become involved in private-public partnerships to get things done at the schools.
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