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OFFICIALS SAY ST. THOMAS SCHOOLS WILL BE READY

Aug. 20, 2002 – Top Education officials say they're confident that school buildings on St. Thomas will be ready to receive students when classes begin on Aug. 27.
Acting Education Commissioner Noreen Michael led reporters on a tour Monday to check the status of repairs and maintenance work at Charlotte Amalie High School, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, the New Horizons Annex, and Ulla Muller, Kirwan, J. Antonio Jarvis and Lockhart Elementary Schools.
Accompanying her were Rosalia Payne, district superintendent; Louis Hughes, newly appointed chief of school maintenance; Keith Richards, the governor's special assistant for capital projects; and Harry Daniels, representing the Board of Education.
At almost every school, the visitors saw signs of progress — painting, cleaning and installation work. Principals were on hand to answer questions and express concerns. Michael said she had made a preliminary pass through the schools over the weekend but wanted to reassure the public that all would be in readiness for the start of the new academic year. While there were no major problems at any of the schools, she said, some work remained to be done.
On the Cancryn school grounds, the visitors saw maintenance crews taking out carpeting, laying new tiles on the floors and replacing damaged window louvers. Michael said the principal was "reasonably pleased with what we have done there."
At New Horizons, brightly painted hallways greeted the group. Program manager Stephan Jurgens showed off the school's computer room. Contractors were putting the finishing touches on an exterior fire escape, which is required by the V.I. Fire Service.
At Lockhart, flooding has been a major concern. When Michael and her entourage arrived on Monday, crews were at work on the drainage system.
Hughes, still in his first days with the summer repair program, brings experience to the job from his years at the Public Works Department, where he oversaw a similar program in the Schneider administration.
"I have pretty good men working for me," he said. "Once we get rolling, a school opens and we can get to the principal, the custodial workers, and find out what is the problem, what isn't working the way it should. My maintenance department is ready to take on any task that the Department of Education should encounter."
Hughes and Michael said there still are school buildings that need attention. For example, a Jarvis classroom building that was closed last year because of structural damage remains closed.
Of the $4 million the Education Department received from the Port Authority this year for school maintenance, $1.6 million has been spent in the St. Croix district and $1.2 million has been spent on St. Thomas and St. John. Plans are being made to spend the remaining funds. Hughes said school maintenance projects will be ongoing throughout the academic year.
Michael said she would tour St. John's two public school toward the end of this week. She also said she's planning to return to St. Croix to follow up on three schools not included in a tour she led last Friday.

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