Home News Local news Classes Set to Resume Monday at Educational Complex in Wake of Fire

Classes Set to Resume Monday at Educational Complex in Wake of Fire

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Feb. 22, 2008 — Kurt Vialet, principal at St. Croix Educational Complex, told parents, students and concerned citizens Thursday about plans to move forward as fast as possible to reopen the school following the devastating fire Tuesday.
"We are fortunate it was contained in the front office," Vialet said. "It could have been worse if it had spread to all of the connecting wings."
Almost 350 people showed up for an emergency meeting sponsored by the St. Croix Educational Complex Parent, Teacher and Student Association (SCEC-PTSA). The meeting was held at the school auditorium.
The meeting was scheduled for 5:45 so people could see the destruction from suspected arson before the sun went down. The office is a soot-covered, blackened hull. Work to clear the area of the melted and charred debris was evident.
"The attendance here tonight shows the children's education is top priority," said Richard Muhammad, president of the PTSA. "With teamwork from organizations, we can be successful getting things in order quickly."
Students and parents alike questioned when school would reopen. Classes will resume Monday, but students will have to make up the days missed, Vilaet said. School officials have a few options on the makeup days: extending the school year, holding longer school days or eliminating holidays. The general consensus of the audience was to eliminate holidays.
Another issue at hand is the accreditation of the school and an inspection set for April 29 by the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools. Educators really need to work expeditiously for the inspection, Vialet said.
"It will not look good if they see we don't care enough about our school with people burning it," Vialet said. "It will be hard to justify and explain why this happened. This may be the first graduating class with accreditation stripped."
Insurance adjusters have done damage-and-loss claims. Cleanup contractors have been hired and are up to speed on their work. Next week electrical and construction contractors will be hired, Vialet said. Plans are to relocate the office in the library.
An audience member asked the estimated dollar amount of the damage. Vialet said it is more than $100,000.
"We tried to salvage as much as possible, but we lost an $18,000 scanner, $6,000 copier, 20 computers valued at $1,200 each, plus more," Vialet said. "And, of course, there is the cost of cleanup, replacing, repairing and rebuilding things."
Gov. John deJongh Jr. has pledged his commitment to getting funding quickly.
Questions were posed about alarm systems and sprinkler systems, neither of which seemed to be in existence. In an interview after the meeting, Vialet said the school hasn't had an alarm system since 1995 or 1997.
"We shouldn't need an alarm system," he said. "It should be an unnecessary expense. It's sad that people don't respect schools."
The administrators are looking into a new electronic alarm system. As far as not having a sprinkler system, Vialet said the school has a water-pump system to hook up hoses for fires.
Security-camera tapes showed four individuals involved in the crime, Vialet told the crowd. He started to describe what was seen on the images, but he was advised to not go into too much detail because of the criminal investigation.
"I have a vested interest in Complex, because I have two children in school here," said Maria Encarnacion, St. Croix's deputy school superintendent. "I think the police need to show the footage of the people on the tapes. Put this out in the public and people can call in what they know."
Representatives from the V.I. Police Department were also on hand to answer questions.
"We are going to catch those individuals," said Oakland Benta, special assistant to Police Commissioner James McCall. "We are very serious in our efforts — we don't want those individuals to walk."
Gov. John deJongh Jr. assessed the damage Friday.
"It is imperative that we work together to identify the perpetrators of this crime," he said, according to a Government House news release. "I am calling upon the community to step forward and contact the Virgin Islands Police Department with any available information. We will do whatever is necessary to catch whoever did this."
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