The Virgin Islands Department of Education (VIDE) New Schools Construction Advisory Board will hold a series of meetings in October to share its current work and to gain public input on the planning and construction of new and modernized public schools in the territory.
According to Dionne Wells-Hedrington, Ed.D., VIDE chief operations officer, to date, the Board has developed Guiding Principles, a framework for the Educational Facilities Master Plan, and Industry Standards for the territory’s new and modernized public schools. Furthermore, the group has provided a conceptual footprint of a 21st Century school system the Virgin Islands can better afford to maintain and that will equip students to succeed.
Wells-Hedrington went on to say that the work of the Board continues with the development of the Educational Facilities Master Plan, and the acquisition of land and sites for the new schools. At the upcoming meetings, the Board “will present to the community its work and garner feedback as to what they want to see moving forward with education for their children,” she said.
The 40-member board is comprised of internal and external stakeholders, including Education employees, elected officials, business owners, community activists, parents, students and other community members on St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas, who serve as the steering committee for new school construction. Board members meet independently along district lines and jointly as a territorial group to brainstorm ideas and develop standards that would be used to drive the design of the new schools.
The Board was established in January 2019 and is required to follow stringent federal guidelines to ensure the appropriation of funds to construct new public schools or modernize existing schools.
“This is an exciting time for the Department of Education where we get to share the first phase of the important work that has gone into making the construction of new schools a reality in the Virgin Islands,” said Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin. “We are in the very early stages of this work, but we are making the right progress and look forward to gaining the public’s input at these meetings.”
The public meetings are from 6-8 p.m. October 16, 17, 22, 24, 28, 29 and 30, and are expected to be interactive, with attendees participating in small-group discussions, planning sessions, surveys and other activities. All are encouraged to attend.