Declaring that “school is in,” Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin and St. Croix District Superintendent Carlos McGregor hosted Governor Albert Bryan Jr. for a tour of the Alfredo Andrews Elementary School to celebrate the return of students and staff for the first day of in-person learning at St. Croix public schools on March 2.
During the half-hour tour, which was streamed live on the V.I. Department of Education’s Facebook page and led by Principal Andrea Hobson, the delegation visited kindergarten and first-grade classrooms, which showed desks arranged six feet apart in compliance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention social distancing protocols, as well as floor markings indicating boundaries in which students should remain.
Governor Bryan greeted teachers and students, while sharing light-hearted stories and listening to the concerns of educators.
“To every person along the way, right down to the custodial workers to the maintenance workers who got these buildings ready, each part of this team is important,” he said. “I want to thank the school principals and the teachers for trusting in us and taking that chance to come to school.”
He went on to praise the progress the Department of Education has made in building its technology infrastructure.
“We are doing groundbreaking things here at the Virgin Islands Department of Education, where we have just moved from students not having a lot of technology to a point where every student now has a laptop,” the Governor said, adding, “this is spectacular.”
However, Governor Bryan acknowledged the fears some parents still have with their children learning in person.
“Parents, I know it is scary for your kindergartner to go to school [during the pandemic], but trust me, we’re doing everything we can to keep [them] safe,” he said. “I just want to thank you, again, for bringing them to school.”
In spirited remarks that culminated with the ringing of a handheld bell symbolizing the beginning of the school day, McGregor expressed his gratitude to employees.
“I want to thank all the hardworking men and women of the St. Croix District—we are so proud of this moment this morning,” he said. “Thank you to everyone; we’re going to have a great rest of the school year.”
Berry-Benjamin highlighted the significance of the day.
“Thank you, Superintendent McGregor, to you and your team for the awesome job in leading our principals in reopening schools safely,” she said. “This truly is an important time for us here at the VIDE, and territory, as we safely reopen schools to welcome back our students. We are in a state of transformation, where we are transforming from one educational era to another.”
The commissioner concluded her remarks by asking the community to “exercise patience and positively encourage our students to develop a love of learning.”
Following the Alfredo Andrews tour, Berry-Benjamin and McGregor visited Ricardo Richards Elementary and Eulalie R. Rivera K-8 School, while Deputy Superintendent Carla Bastian, PhD, visited the Career & Technical Education Center, where second- and fourth-year certification students were engaged in hands-on coursework in cosmetology, automotive, electronics and culinary arts.
On March 9, students in second and third grade will return for in-person instruction in the St. Croix District.
Dates for the return to in-person instruction in the St. Thomas-St. John District will be announced soon.