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Education Department Closing St. Croix Alternative School

June 6, 2008 — St. Croix's Positive Connections Alternative School students will go back to their regular schools this fall, effectively closing the school for now, Education Commissioner LaVerne Terry told the V.I. Board of Education during her end-of-year report Friday.
The school, which serves students having difficulty and at risk of dropping out, is housed in run-down, previously abandoned school buildings on the north shore near Juanita Gardine Elementary.
"We have found that it is impossible to develop a meaningful program without a substantial infusion of funds in the infrastructure," Terry said. "As a result, we have concluded that the only feasible immediate solution is to return the students to their home schools while we continue to work on the redesign."
Meanwhile, she said, Education will use federal funds for alternative education to beef up instructional personnel in the student's regular schools and explore using neighborhood community centers during the school day.
On St. Thomas, the Edith Williams Alternative Academy will remain open, but Education will evaluate its structure, working to increase its resources and screening students to ensure all other interventions and options have been tried before sending them out of their home schools, Terry said.
All four of the territory's high schools are at least provisionally accredited, Terry reported. The group that accredits area schools, the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, recently made an inspection visit. Middle States decides whether to accredit schools in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, as well as in the territory.
The territory's older public high schools — St. Croix Central, Eudora Kean and Charlotte Amalie — lost their accreditation in 2002 and were all provisionally re-accredited in 2005. All four are up for accreditation this year. (See "Accrediting Agency Evaluating Territory's Schools .")
"We have full accreditation through 2011 for the two high schools on St. Thomas and the St. Croix Educational Complex," Terry said. She expects a recommendation to accredit the Career and Technical Center vocational school attached to the Educational Complex on St. Croix, as well.
The St. Croix Central High School is expected to receive one year of full accreditation with the anticipation that several items of concern will be addressed over the course of the year, she said.
Middle States' conditions are:
— A permanent principal must be named;
— Electrical upgrades must be completed;
— Efforts outlined in the accreditation action plan and the school improvement action plan must be combined into a cohesive approach toward school development;
— The school must develop a focused effort to improve 11th-grade performance on federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) testing required under the No Child Left Behind Act;
— Repairs must be completed in the vocational building to ensure it is safe; and
— The gym bleachers need to be replaced, and the locker rooms need to be upgraded and have actual lockers in them.
"I've been hearing all of these bullet points — all except the new-principal one — for the past eight years," said board member Jorge "Tito" Galiber. "The electrical problem has persisted through perhaps four commissioners and three superintendents. I really hope it is fixed this year."
Some of the problems are solved or in progress, Terry said. Charmaine Hobson-Johnson is the new permanent principal for Central High. Funding may already exist to replace the school's bleachers, and Education is in the progress of updating the formal scope of work for the electrical upgrades, she said.
No votes were taken at the meeting, which was teleconferenced on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. Present on St. Croix were Galiber, Shawn Gibson and Nereida Rivera O'Reilly. On St. Thomas were Chairwoman Debra Smith-Watlington, Oswin Sewer Sr., Judy M. Gomez and Nandi Sekou. Keith Richards and Terrence D. Joseph were absent.
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