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Bryan Talks Return Of In-Person Learning, Lifting of International Travel Ban in U.S.

CHRISTIANSTED — During Monday’s Government House weekly press briefing, Governor Albert Bryan discussed the Virgin Islands Department of Education’s return to in-person learning, which will be phased in beginning in January 2022 and President Biden’s announcement this week that he is lifting the international travel ban and will begin allowing vaccinated visitors to come into the country.

The governor said resuming in-person learning for students in 4th through 12th grades is vital for the educational
needs of the Territory’s students and is a key part of returning to normalcy from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have had a model that has proved successful in keeping our students, faculty and staff safe for months now.
In addition, we have available for children ages 5 and older the vaccine, which has also proven effective in dramatically reducing the chances of severe illness or death from COVID,” Governor Bryan said. “We need to move forward for the sake of our students and their educational needs. So I ask the parents out there to get vaccinated and vaccinate your children who are eligible to receive the vaccine and I am also asking our educators to do the same. This is the most effective form of protection there is against COVID-19.”

The Governor also pointed to President Biden’s removal of the international travel ban as the world taking a step
toward normalcy and said the current rules to enter the U.S. Virgin Islands, which have proven extremely
effective, will remain as they are.

“The United States will now allow fully vaccinated travelers at airports and land borders, doing away with a COVID-19 restriction that dates back more than 20 months. The new rules will allow air travel from previously restricted countries if the traveler has proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test, like what we have in place here in the Territory with our USVI travel portal,” Governor Bryan said. “The current requirements to enter the USVI will remain in place for the foreseeable future. Those requirements include submitting through the USVI travel portal a negative PCR or Antigen test taken within 5 days of the date of your travel to the territory or uploading proof of vaccination within the USVI.”

8 percent wage repayment

As promised, the Bryan-Roach Administration began sending out checks and direct deposits this week of the 8
percent wage repayment from the 2011 V.I. Economic Stability Act.

“This action marks a significant departure from a period of extreme austerity in which our government was actively discussing budget cuts, furloughs and payless paydays,” Governor Bryan said. “It demonstrates that the sound financial management of the Bryan-Roach Administration is paying dividends. This is especially evident when you consider the devastating economic impact of the 2017 hurricanes and the Covid-19 pandemic.”

The Governor thanked Senate President Donna Frett-Gregory and the members of the 34th Legislature for shepherding through the legislation that makes the repayment of these wages possible.

The Governor also said that at the time of the wage cuts, many people could not imagine that the Government of
the Virgin Islands would find itself in a position to restore the lost wages.

“We are especially pleased to be able to deliver on this promise at this time of year as families prepare for the holiday season. We know that the high cost of electricity, food, and the overall inflation we are experiencing creates extreme stress in our community,” Governor Bryan said. “We hope that this week’s payments will prove to be a timely stimulus, at least for a few households.

Residents can check the Division of Personnel website (dopusvi.org) and make sure their information in the Personnel database regarding the 8 percent repayment is correct.

To do so, click on the tab at the top of the web page for “Employees” then click the link that says “8% Salary Restoration.” The website also contains instructions for the survivors of government employees who are deceased
and are owed money to receive those funds.

GERS Funding

The Governor also said the Administration is finalizing a proposal that could bring a permanent solution to the extreme financial distress faced by the Government Employees’ Retirement System and bring a long-lasting benefit and relief to 17,000 beneficiaries.

“Very quietly we have been working with the Legislature on perhaps our greatest challenge as a government. In the coming months we will once again embark on a proposal that may be able to fix the GERS permanently,” Bryan said. “Just like the 8%, we will be working together with our friends in the Legislature to bring about change in our community. We will need your confidence, support and understanding to get it done.”

Governor Bryan traveling to Jacksonville, Dallas

The governor said he will be traveling later this week, accompanied by Virgin Islands Port Authority Executive Director Carlton Dowe, to Jacksonville, Florida, for meetings with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about the dredging permits at three of the Territory’s harbors and to discuss flood mitigation for the guts in Estate La Grange on St. Croix and Savan on St. Thomas.

The governor said that while he is stateside, he and Executive Director Dowe also will travel to Dallas, Texas, for meetings with officials at American Airlines to discuss additional airlift to the territory.

“As the country starts to reopen and allow for less restrictive international travel, we want to maintain our competitive edge in the tourism market,” Governor Bryan said. “As such, I am making the rounds in support of the Department of Tourism and the Port Authority.”

Midre Cummings Park Volunteers

In conjunction with the renovation of the Midre Cummings Recreational and Youth Facility in Frederiksted, which is slated to kick off on Friday, November 12 and continue for one week, Our Town Frederiksted and Children First St. Croix are still looking for volunteers to help assemble and install the new playground equipment.

Bryan said this effort is a community project, and he urged individuals and organizations to lend a few hours of support. To volunteer, please contact Administrator Sammuel Sanes at 340-773-1404 or Sana Joseph Smith at 340-201-
3791.

Pop-Up Vaccinations

Residents can get vaccinated at no cost at the Community Vaccination Center (CVC) located in each district; both
facilities accept scheduled appointments and walk-up requests for the vaccine.

Anyone 5 and older is eligible to receive the vaccine. Please make sure to have a parent or guardian accompany
any minor wishing to get vaccinated and bring an ID for both the minor and the parent or guardian.

For information about the COVID-19 vaccines or to schedule an appointment to get vaccinated, call the VITEMA
hotline Mondays-Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 340-777-VACS (8227). Vaccination appointments also can be scheduled online at covid19usvi.com/vaccines.

Anyone who thinks they may have contracted COVID-19 can call the Epidemiology hotline at 340-712-6299 or
340-776-1519. For more information, visit covid19usvi.com.

COVID-19 cases as of November 8

• 2.7% seven-day positivity rate
• Currently tracking 90 active cases (81 STX; 8 STT; 1 STJ).
• 209,448 individuals tested to date.
• 7,290 individuals tested positive.
• 7,117 individuals have recovered.
• 83 deaths.
• There are three COVID-19 patients hospitalized, with 1 on a ventilator, at Juan F. Luis Medical Center on St. Croix.
• There is one COVID-19 patient hospitalized at Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas.

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Commissioner Slams CHS Teacher For ‘Inappropriate Dress’ During Zoom Class

KINGSHILL — The Virgin Islands Department of Education was made aware of a photo circulating on social media of an employee inappropriately dressed while holding virtual classes with students at the St. Croix Central High School today.

The Department of Education denounces the actions of the employee and has acted swiftly in the following ways:

• The employee has been removed from teaching while an investigation is underway
• The employee has been denied any further access to Department-owned email and video conferencing accounts that allow online interaction with students
• An investigative hearing has been scheduled for tomorrow with the employee, union representatives, and Department of Education officials as part of the required due process
• Appropriate further action may be taken as the investigation unfolds

“Our employees are held to the highest standards of decorum and professionalism, and the Department of Education will not condone behaviors that fall outside of these expectations when it comes to any of our staff, particularly our teaching professionals,” Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin said. “Our students’ safety comes first, and we are committed to ensuring their trust is not violated while they are under our care.”

The Department of Education is arranging additional training for faculty on the appropriate dress code for teaching virtually, as well as the proper use of online teaching platforms and the expectations involved.

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Department of Education School Updates For October 11-18

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — All public schools will be closed today in observance of the Columbus Day holiday. Virgin Islands-Puerto Rico Friendship Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day will also be celebrated on October 11. All public schools will reopen tomorrow.

The Claude O. Markoe Elementary School will resume in-person learning on Oct. 12. The campus reverted to virtual learning on Sept. 27 due to COVID-19 exposure.

The Virgin Islands Department of Health has conducted a series of COVID-19 testing of students and staff and deemed the school safe to resume in-person learning. The campus has been sanitized using CDC-approved products.

The annual TEACH “Together Educating America’s CHildren” Conference will be held in the St. Thomas-St. John District on October 15. Schools are closed for St. Thomas-St. John students that day.

The annual TEACH “Together Educating America’s CHildren” Conference will be held in the St. Croix District on October18. Schools are closed for St. Croix students that day.

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New Fleet Of 15 School Buses Roll Out Tomorrow With Vendor Contract Signed

KINGSHILL — A fleet of 15 new school buses will begin servicing students in the St. Croix District beginning tomorrow following the completion of contractual agreements between the Department of Education and Abramson Enterprises, Inc, the company that operates the school buses.

The new buses are the property of the Virgin Islands Department of Education and marks the first time the general education student population on St. Croix would be transported in buses owned by the department. Historically, access to school buses on St. Croix had been contracted through Abramson. Special education students on St. Croix have been transported in Department-owned school buses since 2018.

PreK-3rd and CTE students attending in-person classes will be picked up at designated locations in or near their neighborhoods. School bus service will not operate for Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, September 29 to October 1, as the school has reverted to virtual learning due to COVID-19 exposure on the campus.

New Fleet Of 15 School Buses Roll Out Tomorrow With Vendor Contract Signed

Motorists are reminded to observe all safety signage and speed limits when approaching a stopped school bus or when driving in a school zone.

Parents are reminded to ensure their children follow School Bus Safety Rules, including:

• A face mask must be worn at all times, covering the nose and mouth, while at the bus
stop and riding the school bus
• Students may sit no more than two persons per seat
• Students are expected to be waiting at the bus stop closest to their residence at least five minutes before the bus arrives
• Students should not be standing or playing in the roadway
• Students should ensure traffic has stopped before stepping into the roadway to load and unload the bus
• Students must always follow the instructions of the school bus driver

PICK-UP TIMES AT SCHOOL BUS ROUTES
• CTEC East End bus will start pick up at 6:45 a.m.
• Pearl B. Larsen pick up at 7:30 a.m.
• Juanita Garden pick up at 7:30 a.m.
• Eulalie R. Rivera pick up at 7:30 a.m.
• Ricardo Richards pick up at 7:45 a.m.
• Lew Muckle pick up at 7:45 a.m.
• Alfredo Andrews pick up at 7:45 a.m.
• Claude O. Markoe pick up at 7:45 a.m.

SCHOOL BUS ROUTES
ST. CROIX CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION CENTER
• Cotton Valley-Solitude-Mount Pleasant-Tipperary Entrance-Mount Washington-Tide
Village-Welcome Gas Station-Water Gut Shanty
• Harbor View-Princesse Shanty-Glynn Shanty
• Catherine’s Rest-Humbug-Tamarind-Work & Rest-Strawberry
• Aureo Diaz-Mon Bijou-Calquohoun-Coble-Upper Love-Golden Grove-Croixville
• WIM Hodge Pavilion-White Bay-Hannah’s Rest-St. Georges Shanty
• F’sted V. Market-La Grange Shanty-Concordia Entrance
• Cane Carlton-Williams Delight
• Campo Rico Shanty- Whim-Carlton
• Louis Brown-Paradise Mills-Adventure-Lorraine Village

PEARL B. LARSEN PREK-8 SCHOOL
• Cotton Valley-Solitude-Mount Pleasant-Tipperary Entrance-Mount Washington-Tide
Village-Welcome Gas Station-Water Gut Shanty
• Princesse Route 752-Harbor View

JUANITA GARDINE K-8 SCHOOL
• Water Gut Shanty-Harbor View-St. John’s Shanty-Princesse Shanty
• Catherine’s Rest Shanty-Questa Verde Entrance

New Fleet Of 15 School Buses Roll Out Tomorrow With Vendor Contract Signed

EULALIE R. RIVERA K-8 SCHOOL
• Upper Love-Croixville-Enfield Green-Adventure-Mount Pleasant-Estate Diamond-St. Georges
• (ESL) Louis Brown-Paradise Mills
• Enfield Green-Mount Pleasant-Paradise Mills-Louis Brown
• Carlton-Whim-Good Hope-Campo Rico
• Cane Carlton- Williams Delight-Estate Cane
• Concordia Entrance-La Grange Shanty-F’sted V Market

RICARDO RICHARDS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
• Mary’s Fancy-Bourne Esperance-Diamond Ruby

LEW MUCKLE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
• Tamarind-Humbug-Anna’s Hope-Rattan-Sion Hill-Castle Coakley-Peter’s Rest

ALFREDO ANDREWS ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
• Castle Burke Shanty-Aureo Diaz-Clifton Hill Shanty-Harvey- Profit
• Mon Bijou Shanty-Glynn Shanty-Calquohoun Shanty
• Bonne Esperance-Morning Star

CLAUDE O. MARKOE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
• White Bay-WIM Hodge
• Williams Delight-Cane Carlton-Paradise Mills-Louis Brown
• (ESL) Concordia-La Grange-F’sted V Market

SEVENTH DAY
• F’sted-St. Georges-Lorraine Village-Princesse Shanty-Paradise-Work & Rest-Water Gut
Shanty

ST. JOSEPH
• Catherine’s Rest Shanty-Humbug-Strawberry-F’sted-Williams Delight Shanty-Lorraine
Village
• Princesse Shanty
• Cotton Valley-Solitude-Mount Pleasant-Tipperary Entrance-Mount Washington-Tide
Village-Welcome Gas Station-Water Gut Shanty

ST. MARY’S
• Kingshill Shanty-Anna’s Hope Shanty- Princesse Shanty
• Cotton Valley-Solitude-Mount Pleasant-Tipperary Entrance-Mount Washington-Tide
Village-Welcome Gas Station-Water Gut Shanty

ST. PATRICK’S
• Lorraine Village-Whim-La Grange

GOOD HOPE COUNTRY DAY
• Princesse Shanty-Strawberry- F’sted
• Cotton Valley-Solitude-Mount Pleasant-Tipperary Entrance-Mount Washington-Tide
Village-Welcome Gas Station-Water Gut Shanty

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Joseph Gomez Elementary School Closed Today Due To Death Of Paraprofessional

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — The Joseph Gomez Elementary School will be closed today due to the passing of a staff member, the Virgin Islands Department of Education said.

St. Thomas District leaders have activated the crisis response team to make counseling services available to anyone in need at the Anna’s Retreat facility, according to the DOE.

The school is expected to resume normal operations tomorrow, the department said.

Joseph Gomez Elementary School Closed Today Due To Death Of Paraprofessional

“The Department of Education extends sincere condolences to the Joseph Gomez Elementary School family, the St. Thomas-St. John District, and to the family, friends, and loved ones of our late employee,” it said in a prepared statement.

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DOE: Joseph Gomez Elementary School Kindergarten Students For Early Dismissal

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — All in-person Kindergarten classes at the Joseph Gomez Elementary School will be dismissed at 11 a.m. today, due to an electrical service interruption affecting classrooms, the Virgin Islands Department of Education said.

Parents are asked to pick up their children from the school campus, according to the DOE.

“Students will be served breakfast and lunch before they depart,” the DOE said in a prepared statement. “Other classrooms at the school are not affected and will continue in-person learning.” 

Technicians have been informed of the service interruption and repairs are expected to be completed later today, the DOE said. 

In-person classes for Gomez Kindergarten students will resume on September 28, the Education Department said.. 

“The Department of Education thanks teachers, parents, and students for their patience as the matter is resolved,” the department said. 

The Bryan-Roach Administration is investing in the Territory’s people, infrastructure and future through transparency, stabilizing the economy, restoring trust in the government, and ensuring that recovery projects are completed as quickly as possible. Visit www.transparency.vi.gov.   

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WAPA Power Outage Sends Claude O. Markoe Students Back To Virtual Learning

FREDERIKSTED — A Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority blackout sent some west end elementary school students back to learning from home.

The Virgin Islands Department of Education, St. Croix District, announced the early dismissal of Claude O. Markoe Elementary School’s in-person classes on September 13, “effective immediately, due to a power outage impacting most of the campus.”

“Students will revert to virtual learning for the remainder of the school day,” the DOE said in a prepared statement sent at 11:57 a.m. today.

Parents were asked to begin picking up their children from the campus around noon.

“Technicians and maintenance crews are assessing the situation,” according to the DOE.

The Department of Education said it will provide an update on the status of the school for in-person learning tomorrow.

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Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin Tests Positive For COVID-19

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islands Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin has tested positive for COVID-19.

Berry-Benjamin underwent COVID-19 testing on Friday, after experiencing symptoms overnight on September 9, the Department of Education said.

Berry-Benjamin did not perform any official duties following an emergency press conference she hosted on Thursday, according to the DOE.

Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin Tests Positive For COVID-19
Governor Albert Bryan Jr. uses hand sanitizer and gets a temperature check before going into Julius Sprauve School in St. John on Tuesday. The Governor and Education Commissioner toured schools on three islands together that day.

Assistant Education Commissioner Victor Somme III will serve as Acting Commissioner while Berry-Benjamin recuperates.

Berry-Benjamin has been fully vaccinated since February 2021, the department said in a prepared statement.

During a telephone call to staff on Friday evening, Berry-Benjamin said employees and the community should continue to follow all COVID-19 safety protocols, as the coronavirus remains prevalent, and all are susceptible to it.

The Department of Education said it “extends best wishes for a speedy recovery to Commissioner Berry-Benjamin and thanks the community for its support.”

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Berry-Benjamin Hosts Governor Bryan On School Tours On First Day Of Classes

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Virgin Islands Department of Education Commissioner Racquel Berry-Benjamin hosted Governor Albert Bryan on a tour of four schools—Ricardo Richards Elementary and Lew Muckle Elementary on St. Croix, Julius E. Sprauve School on St. John, and Joseph Gomez Elementary School on St. Thomas—to mark the reopening of campuses for inperson learning for the 2021-2022 school year.

Students attending the Territory’s public schools in grades PreK-3rd, Special Education self-contained classes, and Career and Technical Education students enrolled in a specific career pathway returned to campuses for the first time since May. Parents with students in these groups could allow their children to continue learning virtually. Students in grades 4-12 will also continue to learn virtually.

The school tours, streamed live on the Department’s Facebook page, showcased classrooms with Plexiglas barriers affixed to student and teacher desks, floor markings depicting boundaries for classroom seating, floor decals depicting social distancing requirements, safety signage throughout campuses, additional handwashing and hand sanitizing stations, among other campus upgrades.

Berry-Benjamin Hosts Governor Bryan On School Tours On First Day Of Classes

Governor Bryan offered teachers and students encouraging words for a successful return to campuses.

“I am so proud of all of you and wish everyone a safe and successful school year as we begin returning students to our campuses,” Governor Bryan said. “We want students to return to the classroom, and the Bryan-Roach administration is doing everything to ensure this is being done in the safest way possible.”

Commissioner Berry-Benjamin praised district and school leaders for their extensive work to prepare campuses and thanked the V.I. Department of Health for its ongoing support.

Berry-Benjamin Hosts Governor Bryan On School Tours On First Day Of Classes

“We are so happy to be here today to reopen our campuses so that students can come to school and learn,” Berry-Benjamin said. “Under the close guidance of the Department of Health, our district and school leaders, as well as maintenance staff, custodial staff, and food service workers, have prepared diligently to ensure campuses are ready to receive students and staff. While we are still very much in the midst of this pandemic, students still need to be educated. We have done our part to prepare, and we ask parents to do their part to ensure students can be in the best educational environment to learn.”

This week’s return to in-person learning is the second time the Department of Education has reopened its campuses during the pandemic. From March-May of the 2020-2021 school year, students returned to campuses.

Other officials participating in the school tours were First Lady Yolanda Bryan, Government House Chief of Staff Karl Knight, St. Croix District Superintendent Carlos McGregor, St. Croix Deputy Superintendents Dr. Carla Bastian and Ericilda Ottley-Herman, St. Thomas-St. John District Superintendent Dr. Stefan Jurgen, St. Thomas-St. John District Deputy Superintendents Dr. Symra Dee Brown and Desha Powell, St. Thomas/Water Island Administrator Avery Lewis,
and St. John Administrator Shikima Jones-Sprauve.

Berry-Benjamin Hosts Governor Bryan On School Tours On First Day Of Classes
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Education Department Suspends School Bus Service On St. Croix ‘Indefinitely’

KINGSHILL — The Virgin Islands Department of Education, St. Croix District, said it has suspended school bus service until further notice.

Parents are asked to continue to provide transportation to and from school for children attending in-person classes.

Special Education students in self-contained classrooms attending in-person classes are not affected and will continue to receive school bus service.

The Department of Education will provide an update on when bus service will resume.

The St. Thomas-St. John District is not affected.