Corrections donates 800 tilapia to Kean High
Published: October 12, 2013
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ST. THOMAS - An unlikely donor intends to help bring Ivanna Eudora Kean High School's tilapia fish farm back to life.
The V.I. Corrections Bureau pledged to donate 800 fish to the school. Corrections made the announcement Friday, while four of the bureau's inmates helped clean out the tanks that earlier this week were full of contaminated water and dead fish.
"It's a done deal," said Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis, who visited the farm at the time of the announcement.
School officials believe someone deliberately contaminated the water, poisoning 800 fish, Tuesday evening. About 90 baby fish kept in a separate tank were unaffected because their tank did not share the same water.
"It is a terrible thing to do to kids," said Corrections Director Julius Wilson.
Students learn to care for the fish in the aquaponics class that has been offered for the last year-and-a-half at the high school. Aquaponics is a system using water to raise food, animals and plants.
Students raised the fish, then used the wastewater to grow plants, including vegetables and herbs, at the fish farm.
During a semester, two classes of about 25 students usually use the fish farm. The classes are on hold this semester because the teacher running it, Kirk Lewis, currently is unable to do so.
Lewis had a recent knee operation and, in his absence, had student Clemon Lewis, 16, run the fish farm.
Kirk Lewis assisted in some of the cleanup of the farm earlier this week, but his knees swelled up from the labor, and he was unable to return Friday.
However, Clemon has been working on the farm throughout the week and received help Friday not only from the four inmates, but also from a dozen members of the high school's football team.
"We're just helping because they needed some extra hands," said 14-year-old Ahmad Frett.
Ahmad said he has never taken the aquaponics class, but he might be interested.
"It looks fun," he said.
The donation of the Corrections Bureau's fish likely will not be for a week or two, as the bureau needs to speak with University of Virgin Islands staff about how to transport the fish from the prison's tilapia farm on St. Croix.
The prison's farm is a collaboration with UVI, according to Wilson. He said the prison's farm has several thousand fish, though he did not want to specify exactly how many.
"I don't want them to be poisoned," Wilson said.
Wilson said that the Corrections Bureau also wants to give the school ample time to clean out the tanks, so that the new batch of fish also is not contaminated. Wilson said one of the bureau's own officials likely will check out the tanks before the shipment of fish is approved.
Additionally, the school's Parent Teacher Association organized a fundraiser Tuesday in which anyone can drop off a donation between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to parents from the PTA who will be standing at the school's entry gates.
The school also is encouraging the entire territory to wear the school's colors: pink and maroon.
"Good things cannot be stopped," said Sharon McCollum, the school principal. McCollum said that school officials filed a police report.
Police are continuing their investigation of the poisoning, according to V.I. Police spokeswoman Melody Rames.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email email@example.com.