Bees close St. John school

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ST. THOMAS ­- V.I. Education officials closed Guy Benjamin Elementary School on St. John at noon Thursday after a student and a teacher were stung by bees from hives in a tree near the playground.

Workers removed the hives Thursday, and the school will remain closed until Monday to ensure that any remaining bees have cleared the grounds.

Benjamin students were to attend classes today at Julius Sprauve Elementary School, according to Education spokeswoman Ananta Pancham.

The decision to close the school early came after a student and a teacher were stung Thursday, according to Pancham. Neither of the two people stung had an allergic reaction, she said.

"There's always the possibility that one of the students or faculty could have an allergy, so we wanted address the situation before that happened and before it could turn into a big problem," Pancham said.

V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen Jr. described the hives as large and said that each contained "thousands" of bees.

A trained beekeeper and one other Agriculture Department employee took the hives to a "bee yard" on St. John, because it is the department's policy not to kill the pollinating insects unless absolutely necessary to ensure safety. One hive was removed Wednesday and the second Thursday.

Workers will check the area during the weekend for "stragglers" in order to give the all-clear for the school's reopening, Petersen said.

Dianne Cameron, who teaches science and social studies, described feeling under siege since the hives were discovered and children were not allowed into the playground.

"It's like a science fiction movie down here," Cameron said. "We have been walking the children from classrooms to the cafeteria and having them be very quiet in the courtyard so as not to disturb the bees."

Petersen said there was no way to prevent future hives from forming in the tree short of cutting the tree down.

"It is completely unpredictable and beyond our control," he said. "Once bees have found a habitat to be suitable, it's reasonable that other bees could find it so and try to form a new hive. It's nature's call."

- Contact reporter Amanda Norris at 714-9104 or email

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