Real-Life Protests Against Virtual Graduations Lead To COVID-19 Transmissions
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Virgin Islands Department of Health (VIDOH) confirmed on Wednesday that one Charlotte Amalie High School (CAHS) senior and two Ivanna Eudora Kean High School (IEKHS) seniors have tested positive for COVID-19.
The cases at the two high schools were made known within hours of each other – with the VIDOH confirming the CAHS case mid-afternoon and the two IEKHS cases after 5 p.m., while the Department of Education was responding to the first case.
The Department of Health has informed school and district officials that the affected students, and other students with whom they were in close contact, are required to quarantine and cannot attend graduation ceremonies planned for Eudora Kean on May 20 and Charlotte Amalie on May 21.
These are the facts:
• After presenting symptoms for several days, the CAHS student was tested for COVID-19 on May 17 and received a positive diagnosis that day; the student has remained in quarantine since then
• The CAHS student was last on campus for Senior Week activities on May 17 and came in direct contact with at least nine other students
• The CAHS student participated in the May 13 graduation protests on St. Thomas, where at least 20 protesters gathered outside the Department of Education’s main headquarters and on the steps of the Earl B. Ottley Legislative Building; and approximately 50 protesters gathered outside the superintendent’s office at the Edith Williams Alternative Academy
• The two IEKHS students, in quarantine as of May 19, were last on campus on May 13 to participate in graduation activities and came in direct contact with at least three other students
• The schools have contacted students’ families to inform them of the exposure; faculty and staff at the schools have also been informed
• The Department of Health continues its contact tracing operations for both high schools With the support of the V.I. Department of Health, hybrid graduation ceremonies—consisting of prerecorded elements and an in-person diploma presentation for graduates—are planned for 1 p.m. on May 20 for Eudora Kean and May 21 for Charlotte Amalie.
The programs will be streamed live on the Department of Education’s Facebook Page and air on Viya Channel 27.
Promotional exercises for the territory’s K-6, PreK-8, and junior high schools will be held virtually.
Meanwhile, Governor Bryan himself spoke to the issue of virtual graduations territory-wide in his press conference on Monday afternoon.
“I was so impressed by their call to action you know they’re exercising their right to peaceful protest. Very organize and making sure that their point was heard. They went further and wrote to me pleading, several of them wrote to me pleading for their cause. You know, I remember one particular email where the student was talking about extreme stress that the last year has put on them. They were a good performer in school. Really did well in English. But doing the subject remotely really was a problem for them. And especially your senior year where it is supposed to be pretty much easy. You got this wrapped up. You’re just trying to get to school. They really expressed how the mental health of our graduates, our students is really been affected. And I wrote her back, too, and said: ‘You know what? You are correct. We’re going to put some more resources towards dealing with this incredible amount of pressure that they’re under to perform. But I couldn’t help but beam with pride as I wrote back to this young lady and many others who wrote me. And I hope that this is just their first step in their political activism and they would continue to make their voice heard because their voice is what’s going to make the future of these islands. However, the graduation of our students, should never be politicized. I mean there’s no place else where the governor gets involved with who’s graduating, how they graduation. It is too important to reduce these situations to pleasing the public and curry favoring votes by making it look like we’re doing something towards the cause.”