As of March, work was underway on the existing Jost Van Dyke Primary School (above) while students attended class at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar. (File photo: ZARRIN TASNIM AHMED)
Completion target is September 2023

Last Thursday the government and Quality Construction Limited signed a contract for more than $4.3 million for the construction of a new Jost Van Dyke Primary School.
“It might be a sister island, but we can’t continue to allow it to be a sister island, a neglected island,” Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said during a signing ceremony held on JVD and broadcast on Facebook.
The project has been long delayed. JVD’s existing primary school sustained major damage in Hurricane Irma in 2017, and since then mould and other issues have frequently forced students to attend class in temporary facilities.
Earlier this year, for instance, they were housed at Foxy’s Tamarind Bar while remedial work was carried out at the existing school. But work on a new facility never got under way even though a design contract was awarded to AEC Consulting Engineering Limited in December 2020.

Dollar-per-student ratio

At the signing ceremony last Thursday, Dr. Wheatley said the school, which currently has a population of 22 students, will have one of the highest dollar-per-student ratios in the VI given the multi million-dollar contract. In addition to the funds allocated for construction, he added, donors have raised between $300,000 and $400,000 to equip the school with modern facilities such as SMART Boards.

The premier said he will “push towards” completing the project by September 2023.He also noted that Natural Resources and Labour Minister Mitch Mitch Turnbull, who represents JVD, pushed hard for the project while he was in the opposition.

“Of course when he was on the other side of the river, he was pounding blows in me because he represents the people of Jost Van Dyke and he demands that they get the best,” Dr. Wheatley said of Mr. Turnbull. He added that he believes Mr. Turnbull will “not rest until” the project is completed.

Interim measures

Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie De Castro also spoke, describing the collaborative effort she said ensured that classes continued during the procurement process.

She added that the government is also working to reform the school curriculum and to ensure that education policies and legislation are fit for purpose.“I believe that this is yet an other step in the right direction as we seek to advance education I this territory,” she said.

Mr. Turnbull told attendees that when he first considered running for elected office in 2014, he visited JVD and recognised that something was wrong.
“Because Jost Van Dyke is not a sister island; Virgin Gorda is not a sister island; Anegada is not a sister island: We are all part of the Virgin Islands, and I believe we should be treated just as that,” he said.

Mr. Turnbull also recalled clashing with the elected government while he served in the opposition. “We have come a long way,” he said. The minister added that he will make frequent checks to ensure the project reaches its completion target.

Recovery and Development Agency Procurement Director John Primo, who served as master of ceremonies, said the procurement process for the contract was carried out in accordance with international competitive bidding standards. He added that the RDA will soon publish a detailed summary of the contract.