For the first time in nearly three decades, the Virgin Islands Department of Education has begun construction of a new school.
The $159 million Arthur A. Richards PreK-8 School is being built on St. Croix on the site of the former Evelyn M. Williams Elementary School. The Pre-K-8 School will replace Arthur A. Richards Junior High, which was destroyed in 2017 by Hurricane Maria shortly after the territory was hit by Hurricane Irma.
“It’s been a long road to get to this point and in the wake of two back-to-back storms, we have been presented with the opportunity and the resources to make this day possible,” Education Commissioner Dionne Wells-Hedrington said.
From 2017 to 2021, Arthur Richards students were attending classes in a collection of modular classrooms, The Virgin Island Daily News says. But when school officials could not solve the air quality problems caused by the foul odors on the modular campus, the temporary Arthur Richards school was closed, and students were relocated to other schools.
At a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Arthur Richards, Virgin Islands Governor Albert Bryan Jr reminded attendees of the perseverance it took to turn the school project into reality.
“Seven years ago, we had no idea what we were going to do with this site, and here we are today, getting ready to break ground on the first new school in thirty years,” he said. “It has taken a long time to get to this point and we have so much more work to do."
Stacey Plaskett, the territory's delegate to Congress, said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has allocated over $209 million for demolition, construction and other costs associated with Arthur Richards.
Officials say the Arthur Richards school is scheduled to be substantially completed by July 2025.
DLR Group created the master plan for the project. The design-build contractor is MCN Build, and the MCN/Perkins Eastman design-build team consists of architects Perkins Eastman and Jaredian, and local builder GEC.