Aug. 2, 2006 – This is a copy of a letter that was sent to each of the candidates for the Office of Governor and Lt. Governor, and to each candidate for the Offices of Senator.
Being that it is a time of campaigning for the leadership of the Virgin Islands, we wanted to start our own campaign, a "move the school campaign". This "move the school" campaign is being organized during this election year with the hopes of lobbying all candidates to consider an issue which is, and has been, dear to St. Johnians for decades, that is, to move the school out of our hectic, noisy, and often dangerous Cruz Bay location to a new site where education would rule. This effort is a desire to send to each and every candidate the message that the single most important need on St. John is to move the school, which will then allow the rest of Cruz Bay to be master planned. We want to put to our leaders a pledge that St. Johnians won't let up on this issue for the sake of our children's welfare and their future.
Our vision is to have the deal, presumably sitting on the Governor's desk, of trading 12 acres of land with the National Park to be moved forward so that an educational and vocational complex can be created. Along with the education complex, we wish for the Department of Parks and Recreation to build an athletic park adjacent to the school, complete with a ball field, the long promised swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, and a track & field area. Also, we wish for DPNR to move our library near the new school. Our present library is overdue for renovations and is termed as "inappropriate" in its' present condition. Also, eventually, we wish to see the long-promised multi-purpose civic center moved into the vicinity of the new education complex as well.
There are so many advantages with doing this. We could build a wonderful education/vocational complex, a library, an athletic park, and our civic center while opening up Cruz Bay to be master planned correctly. The public athletic park, library, and civic center will be open and available to all students, including the Gifft Hill School's students, as well as being open to all who wish to use these facilities. This movement seeks to create one well-designed area, away from the hustle and congestion of Cruz Bay for the benefit of all of St. John.
With the school being moved, we envision some wonderful changes for Cruz Bay as well. Instead of building a big new Post Office on our precious waterfront, the lower floor of Sprauve School could be redesigned to be our Post Office with plenty of room and plenty of parking. Our government offices could be moved into the upstairs of the school, again freeing up a lot of space in Cruz Bay. A "Vendors Village" and parking lot could be designed in the ball field complete with a roof covered vendors area, ending the blue tents in our little park. There could also be an amphitheatre built in a section of the field for performances. In the Vendors Village, all vendor sales will be enhanced with a village atmosphere, with parking, and all vendors and leaseholders will share an equal opportunity and not be spread all over Cruz Bay in every nook and cranny that presently chokes our town.
With the government offices moved to a central location in the upstairs of the school, the following changes can be made in Cruz Bay: the Battery could become a Visitor Center and Museum; the government trailer at the tennis courts could be a new home for ALL car rental agencies with some of their fleet parked in front where a service taxi could bring arriving visitors and their bags; and with the tennis courts being moved to the athletic park near the school, long-term parking could be created on the courts. Imagine how our town would change with the consolidation of vendors, car rentals, and government offices. In a moment, Cruz Bay could become a much better and safer town, with parking, and without building a huge Post Office and parking lot on our waterfront.
Another interesting aspect of this plan is that with the school being moved, the Sprauve Annex will no longer be needed by the Education Department. The Annex could be listed and sold for millions of dollars, helping to fund the new education complex, or it could be leased at substantial rents. However, while we are suggesting this comprehensive change, we wish for everyone to understand that moving the school, developing a Kindergarten through 12th grade and a Vocational Center is the most important ingredient. Moving the school has been in the planning since 1975 and it is time that it is accomplished. Some have mentioned that there may not be enough students to warrant a high school. We believe that a state of the art education complex will appeal to our students and some students in the Red Hook area will want to come to St. John as well. There are discussions that the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School is set to be redesigned and is presently overcrowded. The St. John education complex could help relieve this pressure by bringing our students home and with some additional students choosing to come to St. John for their education.
Some will say that the Post Office won't be able to wait. Well, the plan to use the Vendors Plaza on our waterfront will easily take more than two years to complete and will never be as good of a location as the lower floor of the school. To build the education complex will probably take just as long to complete as the vendor's plaza/Post Office. The Post Office will be enhanced by having much more room and trucking opportunities. If the Post Office needs to be expanded immediately, possibly a temporary trailer could be placed near the Myra Keating Smith Clinic to service Coral Bay area residents until the Post Office is moved to the school. Nevertheless, the planning to move the Post Office has been ongoing for about 15 years; a small window of time to create a much better Post Office is certainly warranted. Anyway, it is what is good for St. John that is most important and the waterfront site is simply wrong for so many reasons.
One caution of bringing this plan to fruition is how to co-ordinate the various government agencies. We feel that the people of St. John are enthusiastic about moving the school, so they are onboard, but how to best develop a plan is what is needed. That is why we feel that the Governor's Administration and Legislature should take the lead. We all need to work on this in unison. If we bog down the momentum with obstacles we will only prolong the moving of the school and the redesigning of our town.
In closing, we wish to offer an opportunity for the leaders of this "Move the School Campaign" to meet with any candidate to further discuss this most important change for St. John. And, to the St. John Community, let your voices be heard. We would love to have everyone's input and support. Thank You.
Review of the Goals of the "Move the School Campaign"
Goal 1: "Move the School" is the first priority. Governor signs the deal with the National Park for land to build the school.
Goal 2: The Department of Education creates an Education & Vocational Complex.
Goal 3: The Department of Parks and Recreation creates an Athletic Park near the Education Complex complete with a ball field, a swimming pool, basketball courts, tennis courts, and track & field.
Goal 4: DPNR moves the St. John Library to the education complex vicinity.
Goal 5: The Post Office moves into the lower floor of Sprauve School.
Goal 6: All government offices on St. John are moved to the upper floor of Sprauve School.
Goal 7: A Vendor's Village is created on the ball field with a covered roof with general parking.
Goal 8: All car rental offices are moved into the trailer at the tennis courts. The tennis courts become long-term parking and car rental staging.
Goal 9: The Battery becomes a Visitor Center and Museum as a tourist attraction.
Goal 10: The Sprauve Annex is listed and sold for mi
llions of dollars, or leased, to help fund the improvements.
Editor's note: A group of St. Johnians want to get their message out to all of the candidates in the upcoming election that the most important issue for St. John is to "Move the School." Steve Black, a member of the group, writes that there are so many advantages to "moving the school" for our youth and for our town.
Editor's note: We welcome and encourage readers to keep the dialogue going by responding to Source commentary. Letters should be e-mailed with name and place of residence to email@example.com.