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Source : Flickr prayitnophotography/
April 10, 2023
Author : Patty Allen
In late February the Virgin Islands Department of Education organized a groundbreaking ceremony to announce the construction plan for a new Arthur A. Richards PreK-8 school in St. Croix. It is the first time in over three decades that the U.S. Virgin Islands is constructing a new school in the territory.
The school area will be approximately 145,000 sq. ft; located at the former Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School site and will feature state-of-the-art learning facilities. The new school building will replace the Arthur A. Richards Junior High School, which was destroyed by Hurricane Maria in 2017.
The Nebraska-based DLR Group, a top architecture firm, will work on the $159 million project. The MCN/Perkins Eastman Design-Build team, local architecture firm Jaredian and local builder GEC are also collaborating with DLR Group and the Department of Education.
Dr. Dionne Wells-Hedrington, the Education Commissioner, explained, "It's been a long road to get to this point, and in the wake of two back-to-back storms, we have been presented with the opportunity and the resources to make this day possible."
Commissioner Hedrington thanked the New Schools Construction Advisory Board, DLR Group, MCN Build, Witt O'Brien's, and Department of Education staff, including Architect Chaneel Callwood-Daniels, for their persistent efforts in assisting the department's transformation.
The students of the former Arthur Richards attended classes in a collection of modular classrooms from 2017 to 2021. But the school officials could not resolve the air quality issues caused due to foul odors on the modular campus. The temporary facility had to close down, and the students were delegated to other schools.
At the ceremony, Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr said, "Seven years ago, we had no idea what we were going to do with this site, and here we are today, getting ready to break ground on the first new school in thirty years. It has taken a long time to get to this point, and we have so much more work to do.”
Adrienne Williams-Octalien, Director of the Office of Disaster Recovery Director praised the commitment of federal partners, including FEMA and the allowances from the Bipartisan Budget Act, to make the construction possible.
She said," FEMA has approved the replacement of seven schools in both districts to include the Claude O. Markoe School in Frederiksted. We are grateful for the opportunity afforded to us by our federal partners, not just to rebuild, but to transform the Territory's education system and provide an environment for our children to learn, develop, and grow."
The school project is scheduled to be completed by July 2025.