Public schools in the U.S. Virgin Islands will resume in-person operations when the 2021-22 school year kicks off on Aug. 9, the V.I. Department of Education announced.
The announcement came following walkthroughs of campuses in the two districts by V.I. Department of Health officials.
“We are prepared and excited to safely bring all of our students back to our campuses on Aug. 9,” Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin said in a news release issued Saturday. “We continue to work hand-in-hand with Commissioner [Justa] Encarnacion and the Department of Health on all matters concerning the safe operation of our schools during the pandemic.”
Berry-Benjamin said the Department of Education reopened some of its school campuses for in-person instruction at the end of the 2020-21 school year, giving schools the opportunity to hone their operations in anticipation of the return of all students in the new school year.
“We successfully opened some of our school campuses from March to May of the 2020-2021 school year,” she said. “Those two months afforded us the opportunity to test the effectiveness of the safety protocols in place at our campuses, and we have been pleased with the outcomes. We look forward to returning all of our students and staff to safe, in-person school environments.”
Return to In-Person Learning
According to the department’s news release:
– All USVI public schools will resume in-person operations on August 9, 2021
– Schools and/or classes will revert to virtual or hybrid instruction ONLY if COVID-19 cases are impacting in-person operations
– The Department of Education has equipped its schools with the necessary technology to seamlessly move from in-person operations to virtual/hybrid operations when necessary
– All students needing a laptop computer or MiFi internet device will be issued these items when schools reopen
– Students are required to be dressed in the school’s uniform while on campus
Special Virtual Pilot Program
For the 2021-2022 school year, the Department of Education will pilot a fully virtual program for select students who qualify in each district. The program is not open to all students.
Eligible students for the virtual program are in grades six through 12 who have:
1. Demonstrated the ability to work independently online, as evidenced by student grades from the 2020-21 school year
2. Or, students with an illness, confirmed by a note from a licensed health practitioner, that prevents the student from attending classes in person.
The Department of Education will inform families of their eligibility to participate in the virtual pilot program; space is limited.
Instructors for the virtual pilot program will be sourced through an online educational service provider.
The virtual pilot program is intended to explore the department’s interest in establishing an online public school in the future. The department laid out the following protocols for campus safety.
– Students and staff are required to wear masks at all times while on campus; masks are not optional; they are considered a part of the school uniform.
– Regular breaks are incorporated into the school day, or on an as-needed basis for students to remove their masks outside, under the supervision of a teacher.
– Frequent hand washing and/or the use of hand sanitizer is a normal part of the school day.
– Additional handwashing stations have been placed throughout school campuses; bathrooms and classrooms have been retrofitted with automatic paper towel, soap and hand sanitizer dispensers.
– Under the guidance of the VIDOH, a two-foot distance will be maintained between desks and students/staff are required to maintain three-feet social distancing when traversing the campus.
– Student and staff temperatures will be checked at the gate of the campus each morning before entry is allowed.
– Isolation rooms are made available on each campus to cater to students exhibiting signs of illness.
– Plexiglas barriers are installed at teacher and student desks, and front offices. These barriers are not a requirement of the CDC or the VIDOH; the Department of Education installed the items as an added measure of safety for students and staff.
– There is no local or federal mandate for residents to be vaccinated for COVID-19; however, the V.I. Department of Education strongly encourages employees and students, aged 12 and up, to get vaccinated.
– With guidance and support from the VIDOH, schools will conduct regular COVID-19 testing of students, with parental consent.
– Students in grades PreK-3 will receive covered breakfast and lunch in their classrooms.
– Students in grades 4-12 will receive covered breakfast and lunch at a designated area on campus in a grab-and-go format.
– Cafeterias will remain closed to avoid large crowds congregating.
– Parents/guardians of students enrolled in the virtual pilot program may pick up meals at the school nearest to their homes.
– School bus transportation will resume across the territory. Students are required to wear a mask at all times while being transported on the school bus.
– Under guidance from the VIDOH, students may sit two to a seat on school buses.
– School bus drivers are required to wear masks.
Arthur A. Richards K-8 Merger
– Arthur Richards K-sixth grade students will attend Eulalie Rivera K-8 School. Eulalie uniform is to be worn.
– Arthur Richards seventh- and eighth-grade students will attend John H. Woodson Jr. High; Woodson uniform is to be worn.
– Claude O. Markoe Elementary sixth-graders promoted to seventh grade last school year will attend John H. Woodson Jr. High School.
Expansion of Early Childhood Learning
– Lew Muckle Elementary School will be the site of the St. Croix District’s newest Granny Preschool – email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
– Joseph Sibilly Monroe Annex will be the site of the St. Thomas-St. John District’s newest Sugarapple Preschool – email email@example.com for more information.