Guy Benjamin won't have first-grade class this year
Published: August 27, 2013
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ST. JOHN - While Guy Benjamin Elementary School in Coral Bat, St. John, will not have a first grade this year, it may have a kindergarten.
Or, it may not.
Today, St. Thomas-St. John School Superintendent Jeanette Smith-Barry is expected to announce a decision about whether Guy Benjamin Elementary School and Julius Sprauve Elementary School in Cruz Bay, St. John, will have one kindergarten class each.
The other option is for all the public school kindergartners on St. John to attend one of two classes at Sprauve Elementary.
With input from parents, Guy Benjamin principal Brenda Dalmida and Sprauve principal Dionne Wells, Smith-Barry decided Monday evening that Guy Benjamin will not have a first-grade class this year.
"We must do some consolidating of students at Guy Benjamin. We need to take a teacher from Guy Benjamin. That's the bottom line," Smith-Barry said.
When a second-grade teacher at Sprauve resigned at the last minute, the school needed to take one of the teachers from Guy Benjamin, Smith-Barry said.
Guy Benjamin first-grade teacher Jane Roskin has been tapped to move to Sprauve School this year and teach second grade.
As a result, Guy Benjamin will be without a first-grade teacher. Because it has only nine first-graders enrolled this year - while Sprauve has 18 - the Guy Benjamin first-graders will transfer to Sprauve for the year.
The decision about how the schools divide the kindergartners also relies on numbers, though the issue has an added twist.
Guy Benjamin has only nine kindergartners enrolled and Sprauve has 31. Because no more than 25 students can be in one class, Sprauve has six students without a teacher, unless they combine with the students at Guy Benjamin.
Smith-Barry told parents at Monday's meeting that two options exist: Either Sprauve's six extra kindergartners attend Guy Benjamin, or Guy Benjamin's nine kindergartners go to Sprauve.
Either way, two kindergarten classes would be filled, she said.
It is not clear how either plan will work out, because both options will require the extra effort and support of at least a half-dozen parents.
"I don't mind doing it, but I just worry about being so far away from her," said Diane Bauder, whose 4-year-old daughter, Alizabeth Bauder-Isaac, will be a kindergartner this upcoming school year.
Busing will be provided by the schools for the kindergartners and the first-graders who are not close enough to walk to school, but some of the parents Monday were concerned about the absence of a school nurse at Guy Benjamin, and others were concerned about the less intimate environment at Sprauve.
Others already had bought uniforms as well for their children.
"We will make sure the community helps pay for the uniforms," said Sharon Coldren, president of the Coral Bay Community, referring to the Guy Benjamin students who have to go to Sprauve.
Coldren was just one of the people at Monday's meeting who felt the need to remind Smith-Barry of Guy Benjamin's significance and its recent success with test scores.
Smith-Barry recognized that many of the parents, and the community members, seemed to be defending Guy Benjamin, which she said they need not do.
"The rumors have started that this is just a move to close Guy Benjamin. There is no plan to close Guy Benjamin," Smith-Barry said. "I do not have a plan to close Guy-Benjamin. I don't have the authority."
Following the meeting, Smith-Barry re-emphasized that regarding any closure of Guy Benjamin Elementary that she was speaking only on behalf of the office of the superintendent and that she could not speak on behalf of the entire V.I. Education Department.
- Contact Jenny Kane at 714-9102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.