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Parents, Teachers Want Answers About Guy Benjamin School

July 22, 2005 – Teachers and parents of students at Guy Benjamin School want answers about the upcoming school year, so a delegation consisting of one teacher, two parents and St. John Administrator Julien Harley will request a meeting with acting Education Department Superintendent Cynthia Carter.
"There's too much 'he said, she said,'" one parent noted.
A group of about 15 met Friday at the Legislature building to discuss issues concerning the school, located in Coral Bay. Heading the list of concerns is the fact that the Education Department plans to do away with the school's kindergarten when school opens.
Education Department spokesman Juel Anderson said July 13 that there would be no kindergarten because the grade had only two students. She said a sixth grade would be added.
However, the parents and teachers wondered how the Education Department could know whether they needed to take away or add grades when registration is still open.
Anderson said those two kindergarteners will attend Julius E. Sprauve School in Cruz Bay.
And, at least three parents were told the fourth grade was filled. When Ann Monsanto went to register her child, she said she was told by school officials that she would "have to wait and see."
She said she has two other students at Guy Benjamin and wants them all to attend the same school.
Lisa Penn, who teaches fifth grade at Guy Benjamin, said teachers proposed combining kindergarten and first grade if there weren't enough kindergarteners, but she said it appears that suggestion fell on deaf ears.
Teacher Pat Harley said he suggested that all the island's children in grades kindergarten through third attend Guy Benjamin because the roads around the school don't get the kind of traffic that the Sprauve School sees.
On Dec. 22, 2004, Sprauve School second-grader Javon Alfred died after he ran into a truck as he walked home from school.
Penn said that if there is no kindergarten this year, there won't be a first grade next year and so on down the line.
She said that last year, kindergarten started with three students, but ended up with six when other students transferred to the school.
Last year the school had 67 students. The numbers have declined over the past few years. Deputy Public Works Commissioner said several years ago, the school had 116 students.
Rumors continue to circulate that the school is closing, but Anderson has said that wasn't true.
Harley said that ideally each class would have a maximum of 15 students.
Those at the meeting also wondered where was the geographic cut off for students to attend Guy Benjamin.
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