354 James Walter Francis Drive
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Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
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A pleasant good morning to all. The completion of the ESHS Redevelopment project, signifies a major investment in the infrastructure that supports education in the Virgin Islands. After 5 school years and one term, the full complement of staff and students of the Elmore Stoutt High School finally returned to the same campus, for full day school for the first time since the storms of 2017. In this moment, at this time, the gratitude and pride that I feel as an alumna, former teacher, now Minister, is unexplainable.
I take this opportunity to reiterate my gratitude to thank the Premier and Minister of Finance, Dr. the Honourable Natalio Wheatley, the Financial Secretary and the entire team at the Ministry of Finance for ensuring that the funding was available to bring this project to fruition. I would like to also thank the Recovery and Development Agency for their relentless dedication and profound leadership of this project. To the Contractors: Quality Construction, Autland Heavy Equipment Ltd., Metro Construction, Northam and SunLeaf Construction and No Limit Construction, thank you for your unwavering commitment to executing this project in a timely and cost-effective manner.
Following the reopening ceremony of the new wing of the Elmore Stoutt High School on Tuesday, 3rd January, ESHS opened its doors to full day school for all students in Grade 7-12. Approximately 1500 students and 150 educators, assembled on the campus on Wednesday, 4th January. The Ministry is pleased with the first two days of school and continue to observe and correct matters as they arise. Students and teachers are adapting to the new environment and are excited and elated to be in the new space. General assembly was held on Wednesday, 4th January in the courtyard and it was a pleasing sight to see the entire school population of students and teachers assembled for the first time since 2017. We are still eagerly awaiting the arrival of some furniture and equipment and we look forward to putting them to use upon arrival. The Ministry would like to thank all stakeholders, especially parents for their patience and support as we readjust to full day school.
Additionally, this school year, the Ministry of Education has endeavoured to re-imagine education as we work to better prepare our students to be leaders in an ever-changing world. The theme for the 2022-2023 school year is “Virgin Islands Education: Moving Full S.T.E.A.M. – Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics provides a new approach to teaching and focuses on the development of creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication which are key 21st century skills.
One of the first successful activities of the school year was Innovation Week, held in November 2022. Students, teachers, parents and other community members were able to experience what learning through the arts, robotics, engineering and other key areas meant. We look forward to hosting other key activities during the course of the school year, namely the National Science Fair in March. Training sessions have been conducted for teachers and the funding necessary to procure much needed S.T.E.A.M. resources is available.
A pilot programme, Innovation Hour, will be rolled out at the Elmore Stoutt High School by the end of the first quarter of the year. This programme is intended to expose students to Robotics, Engineering, the Arts, Technology and other tenets of STEAM. Teachers will continue to receive training ahead of the roll out. An Education Officer has been tasked with developing the Ministry’s plan for the full roll out of STEAM along with a comprehensive policy to support it.
As we re-imagine education, it is crucial for us to review the existing curriculum to ensure it aligns with the tenets of S.T.E.A.M. education. This includes what subjects are offered, what topics are covered and at what developmental stage, which strategies are used and a shift in focus from content knowledge to the application of twenty first century skills. The last curriculum review was done in 2007. Therefore, we are long overdue for a review which will commence this year.
Integral to this mandate is the provision of modern and effective resources for Early Childhood, Languages, Mathematics, Science, Technical Subjects, Music, Art, Physical Education and Special Education. This is because as a government we strongly believe that our schools must be fully equipped with the necessary resources to facilitate teaching and learning efficiently. Hence, funding is now available to provide these educational manipulatives and teaching aids for all subject areas. Thus, whether students are kinesthetic, visual, auditory, social, solitary, verbal or logical learners, our teachers will be equipped with much needed resources to diversify their delivery of instruction to achieve optimal learning.
The review of the Education Act is in its final stages of completion. A number of policies such as the Early Childhood Education Policy, the Special Education Policy, Promotion, Placement and Retention Policy, Graduation Requirements, S.T.E.A.M. Policy, a Curriculum Policy, Professional Standards for Educators and an update to the Discipline Policy and Student Code of Conduct are being created or amended to support the transformation of education in the Territory.
This school year the Ministry has also implemented mandatory professional development of 20 hours per teacher each school year. This month the Ministry inhas also implemented mandatory professional development of 20 hours per teacher each school year. This month the Ministry in collaboration with the Institute of Education at H. Lavity Stoutt Community College, will conduct an Effective Leadership Training Initiative for Principals that includes face to face sessions, field work, coaching from more experienced principals and the preparation of an e-portfolio. This initiative is intended to give new and aspiring principals the support needed to be the transformational leaders that our schools need.
Secondary teachers were trained in October of 2022 on Positive Behaviour Management as we seek to reimagine the way we handle student conduct. Secondary Schools were charged with developing a Positive Behavior Management Plan for their campuses and implementation of these plans should begin this term. To support this and other initiatives, the Ministry has reinstituted the mandatory use of Identification Cards for students at this level. Elmore Stoutt High School students and teachers now have ID cards that will be used for identification purposes and to take attendance. All secondary students and teachers will eventually have these cards.
In relation to infrastructural development, I would like to give an update on ongoing and new projects. The Jost Van Dyke Multipurpose Educational Facility is currently four months into construction. The milestones that have been accomplished thus far are as follows. The construction site has been fully cleared and prepared for the new building’s footprint to be located. The Lower-level Foundations had been constructed. The basement level floor slab has been poured in place, as well as a portion of the Ground Floor slab. Strip footings for the remainder of the ground floor slab have now been completed. A portion of the main retaining wall has been constructed.
The Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre has been designed, and will be built, for the differently abled students of the Virgin Islands. The stakeholder engagement phase of this project has been completed. The Statement of Requirements was prepared and final designs has been approved and completed. Conservatively speaking, the contract should be signed in the first quarter of 2023 and completed within eighteen months of contract signing.
In relation to the Althea Scattliffe Primary School, the Board of Condemnation is being finalized for demolition to commence. Following that we will move into the design phase. There will be consultations in order to come to a swift decision on the final design. The Elmore Stoutt High School Redevelopment Project is proof that educational facilities can be effectively constructed within a limited time frame and we will seek to use this model moving forward to address the reconstruction of the Althea Scattliffe and Isabella Morris Schools.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we build educational facilities we are also building community, building curriculum and building the character of generations. The record of the Standing Finance Committee Report will reflect that the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports petitioned the Committee for an additional $1,125,000.00 to meet the needs of our school system. I am happy to say the Ministry has been granted the additional funding requested plus a little more in the amount of $1,250,000.00 in the 2023 budget.
In August, at the start of the 2022-2023 school year at the Professional Day for Educators in the Virgin Islands, I stood in front of about 600 educators and I said, “You can’t get change if you give exact. But if you give more you get change.” Thus, as a government we have committed to giving more to re-imagine education in the Virgin Islands as we move full S.T.E.A.M. Ahead! Thank you for your kind attention and I look forward to answering any further questions.