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Education Plans Meetings to Discuss New District Boundaries, Bus Routes

The Department of Education plans a series of public meetings in the next month to inform parents about changes in school boundaries and other steps planned in the wake of Hovensa’s closing and the anticipated influx of students to the public school system.

When the oil refinery, St. Croix’s largest private employer by far, announced its closure earlier this year, one of the anticipated impacts was in education. One of the benefits of working at Hovensa was the company paid for all its employees’ children to attend private or parochial school. Friday was the last day of work at the refinery.

In March, St. Croix District Gary Molloy reported that the island’s two biggest private schools, Country Day and Good Hope, anticipated losing 250 students between them, a third or more of their enrollments. Both schools are scrambling in the face of those reductions, reducing staff and reconsidering programs. Kingshill School announced last week that it will not reopen in September.

Not all of those students will switch to the island’s public schools, many Hovensa families are planning to move or have already moved off island, but last month, Molloy told the Virgin Islands School Board his staff is planning for an influx of new students for the 2012-2013 school year.

To accommodate the increase, the St. Croix District has developed a school/estate redistricting plan that is set to take effect in August, he said. The public can meet with Molloy in a series of meetings that will outline the plan and its potential impacts, Molloy said in a statement issued Friday by the department. The goal is to have all students attending the school closest to where they live, he said.

Molloy and the redistricting committee will meet with each school’s Parent Teacher Association to fully explain the plan and to address concerns. Meetings have already taken place at Pearl B. Larsen Elementary and John H. Woodson Junior High. Molloy also has continued appearances on the department’s weekly radio show, Saturday mornings on 107.9 FM.

"All of the island’s estates have already been re-aligned to make sure that happens, so all new students being registered for the 2012-2013 school year will adhere to the new redistrict estate plan and be registered for the school closest to where they live," Molloy said.

Registration for new students entering kindergarten for the 2012-2013 school year begins from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday. Registration for all other new students will begin in June, since these students must have a complete report card as one of the requirements for registration.

Based on the new estate plan, new bus stops will also be designated, along with the establishment of new bus routes. All existing students will adhere to the new bus stops for pick-ups and drop-offs, but must show their ID in order to ride the bus, Molloy added. Bus service will not be provided to students deemed "out of district."

The public can also ask questions at meetings that will be announced after the St. Thomas-St. John Carnival season, according to the department’s news release.

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