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Now that the fall semester has begun, Virgin Islands students, parents and educators are faced with the challenging realities of distance learning, not least of all that laptops designated for each of the territory's students have not reached everyone.
Parents are urged to have patience and summon the proverbial village as the virtual school year starts on Sept. 14 after multiple delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As just about everyone shifts to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, internet providers have seen a massive surge in traffic and say they are working to bridge the digital divide the virus has made so glaringly apparent.
Questions were flying at a rate of 12 per minute as close to 700 viewers tuned into The Press Box on Thursday night to hear the V.I. Education Department’s plans for safely reopening schools amid the ongoing pandemic.
Students at St. Croix Central High are now entering their second week without class and with no end in sight, due to ongoing complaints of an unpleasant smell. Central High School will remain closed on Wednesday, Nov. 20.
Following a news conference earlier this month that ended in uproar, Education officials held a second meeting to discuss the reorganization of three public schools on St. Thomas after more deficiencies were found in the main building at CAHS.
The territory, already dealing with a teacher shortage, may lose a number of mostly Filipino teachers here on J1 visas, due to a delay in applying for visa extensions. Delegate Stacey Plaskett (D-VI) urged local officials to act quickly to prevent the loss of teachers. “Recently my office was contacted by concerned teachers who’s J1 Visas as visiting teachers had not been extended. These teachers were recruited by the Virgin Islands Department of Education to work and educate the children of the Virgin Islands, in areas of Math, Science, Library Science, Special Education, etc. The teachers in question have been working for several years and were requesting extensions," Plaskett said. “With the upcoming school year fast approaching, the Virgin Islands cannot afford to lose any of its teachers. It is incumbent upon all of us to push our children forward - whether that is supporting access to infrastructure materials, funding, or making sure there are enough teachers for the classrooms," she said Plaskett said the State Department has always been strict and had clear requirements and deadlines for submission of materials from Visa holders and their sponsors. "We know that these teachers play a vital role in the current educational landscape and we are doing whatever is possible to support them. As these visas are also never guaranteed we are offering our support the Department of Education with additional programs to augment our teaching abilities," she said.