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St. Croix District Schools Modify Timings Amidst Intense Heatwave

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Amid the escalating heatwave impacting the St. Croix District, the Virgin Islands Department of Education has unveiled altered schedules for six specific schools. Beginning Monday, September 25, these modifications are designed to counteract the soaring temperatures, ensuring the comfort and safety of both students and school personnel.

A Heat Warning was declared for the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 18th, in light of the updated heat risk assessments. The persistent sweltering conditions, not conducive to effective learning, instigated this prompt action by the district.

Facility Evaluations Lead to Changes:

Authorities at the Department of Education in the St. Croix District undertook a detailed examination of school infrastructures. In doing so, they pinpointed six institutions where a significant portion, more than half of the premises, is devoid of operational air conditioning systems. Immediate interventions are underway for these identified schools.

Updated Timetable Details:

  • Juanita Gardine and Eulalie Rivera PreK-8 Schools: Classes are set to commence at 7:30 am, culminating at 12:30 pm. Each class session will span 45 minutes, with lunch timings adjusted to fit the revised schedule.
  • John H. Woodson Jr. High School: This institution will function between 8:00 am to 1:15 pm. The duration for each class is now condensed, from 55 minutes to 45.
  • St. Croix Central High School, St. Croix Educational Complex, and the Career & Educational Technical Center: While the commencement time remains at 7:40 am, the concluding hour is now shifted to 1:05 pm. Each class, previously 75 minutes, will now last for 65.

Transportation Details:

Bus services will remain accessible for students traveling to and from these educational establishments. Specifically, morning routes for Juanita Gardine, Eulalie Rivera PreK-8, and John H. Woodson Jr. High School may kick off at 6:45 am. Buses in the afternoon are synced with the school’s closing times, aligning with when parents can initiate student pickups.

A Transitional Strategy:

The Department of Education emphasizes that these adjustments are provisional, instituted to make the current educational milieu more conducive amidst the heatwave. Continuous monitoring of weather patterns and temperature metrics will guide any further decisions on reverting to typical school durations.

The department candidly recognizes that these shifts are not a permanent remedy. A proactive approach is underway to address the enduring infrastructural needs of the district’s schools. As they navigate this exigent phase, collaboration and patience from parents, students, faculty, and other staff members are earnestly solicited.

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USVI Community Pulse

Christiansted’s Old Barracks Set for Revival with Humanities in Place Grant

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The V.I. Architecture Center for Built Heritage and Crafts (VIAC) has received a significant boost for its project to transform the Old Barracks property on Hospital Street, Christiansted, into an educational center focused on built heritage, historic preservation, architecture, and the building arts.

On Thursday, VIAC announced a $200,000 Humanities in Place Grant from the Mellon Foundation. This grant, aimed at supporting “a fuller, more complex telling of American histories and lived experiences,” will fund strategic planning and design for the project. The revitalized Old Barracks property will feature spaces for community and cultural heritage displays and activities, aligning with the Humanities in Place goal of fostering innovative approaches to understanding and celebrating diverse histories.

“With this grant, our first from a private foundation, we begin to plan for and develop the content that will be featured in our exhibit, studio, auditorium, and library/archive that are part of our proposed development of the site,” said VIAC Board Chair Mary Dema. “According to our business plan, this creates a cultural center in Christiansted that can become an attraction for residents and visitors alike.”

The project planning team will now engage with local stakeholders and experts for their input into the process.

Earlier this year, VIAC secured $850,000 in community project funding from the federal government for the Old Barracks project, thanks to successful requests from Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2024. “These requests reflect the priority my office places on the need for community development and providing more economic opportunities for our most vulnerable populations,” Ms. Plaskett said at the time.

Additionally, VIAC obtained funding to ensure the comprehensive research and documentation of the 256-year-old property’s history. A $25,000 grant from the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, through the National Endowment for the Humanities, supports VIAC’s Storytelling project. This project is gathering historical material to develop a curriculum and conducting interviews for an eventual documentary.

VIAC also secured long-term stability for the project with a 50-year lease from the Virgin Islands government. “We are thankful to Governor Bryan, the 35th Legislature of the Virgin Islands, and the Department of Property and Procurement for facilitating the acquisition of the lease, which is vital to our development efforts,” said Ms. Dema.

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USVI Community Pulse

V.I. Parole Board to Review Cases of Manslaughter, Robbery, and Fraud

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The V.I. Parole Board has released its schedule for parole hearings in June, inviting testimony from victims, family members, and other interested parties.

To submit testimony, written comments or requests to appear before the Board must be sent by May 30, 2024. Correspondence should be addressed to:

Chairman of the Parole Board
John A. Bell Adult Correctional Facility
Rural Route 1, Box 9909
Kingshill, VI 00850-9715
Phone: (340) 773-6309 ext. 6817
Email: [email protected]

Hearing Schedule

June 3:
Edwin Rivera, convicted of second-degree robbery and currently incarcerated at the Citrus County Detention Facility in Florida, will have his parole application reviewed.

June 5:
Five inmates from the Tallahatchie County Facility in Missouri will be heard:

  • Jahzeel Fenton – First-degree assault (domestic violence)
  • Yamini Potter – Grand larceny, identity theft, wire fraud, and obstruction of justice
  • Jim Wallace – Voluntary manslaughter
  • Elieser Edwards – First-degree robbery
  • Dekumar Rogers – Unauthorized possession of a firearm

June 7:
The board will review the case of Mekel Blash, serving a sentence for second-degree murder, from the Wallens Ridge State Prison, Keen Mountain Correctional Facility, and Red Onion State Prison in Virginia.

June 10:
Applications from inmates at the John A. Bell Correctional Facility will be considered:

  • Francisco Tirado – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • Ethelbert Benjamin – First-degree unlawful sexual contact
  • William Wilson – Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute

June 11:
The board will hear applications from inmates of the Alexander A. Farrelly Criminal Justice Complex:

  • Curtis Petersen – Stalking (domestic violence)
  • Edward Paul – Unauthorized possession of a firearm
  • Ray Sanderson – First-degree attempted robbery
  • Shamall Fleming – Second-degree assault (domestic violence)

Public Advisory

The Parole Board reminds the public that parole eligibility is based on the inmate’s sentence and V.I. parole statutes. Inclusion on the eligibility list does not guarantee parole or a scheduled hearing. Parole can only be granted on the recommendation of the Director of the Bureau of Corrections. Additionally, release dates depend on various conditions, including approval by the State Council of Interstate Compact for the Supervision of Adult Offenders.

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USVI Prosecutors and Public Defenders Now Eligible for Law School Loan Repayment Grants

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Prosecutors and federal public defenders in the U.S. Virgin Islands now have a chance to ease their law school loan burdens through a new grant program.

The Virgin Islands Law Enforcement Planning Commission (LEPC) has announced the acceptance of applications for the John R. Justice Grant Program. This initiative, established during the Obama administration, provides loan repayment assistance to qualifying prosecutors and public defenders who commit to staying in their positions for at least three years.

This year, the LEPC has secured $51,840 in grant funds for the program. They plan to distribute approximately 10 grants of around $5,000 each, although the final amount could vary based on the number of applicants. “Awards may increase depending on the number of respondents,” the LEPC stated.

The grants are available to full-time federal public defenders and prosecutors. Full-time is defined as working at least 75% of a standard 40-hour work week. The selection process will prioritize applicants who demonstrate the greatest financial need in repaying their student loans.

The application process involves several steps: income verification, school loan verification, and the completion of a John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Program Service Agreement. Applicants must also submit additional documents, including education loan records and proof of employment. The LEPC has indicated it will work with the Department of Labor to account for any increases in the cost of living.

Applications must be submitted electronically to the LEPC by 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, June 30, 2024, at [email protected]. Incomplete applications or those lacking required signatures and documents will not be considered.

For further information or to request an application, interested parties can contact Ms. Carmen Potter, Executive Assistant to the Director, at (340) 774-6400 or via email at [email protected].

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