Parents, faculty, alumni, community members and current and former administrators gathered at the Julius E. Sprauve School (JESS) to kick off the schools 50th anniversary in a ceremonious celebration Wednesday night, November 2.
Mr. Elroy Sprauve, a resident scholar, mentor, former principal and teacher at JESS, was honored as the evenings guest speaker, a perfect candidate to provide a little history behind the landmark school.
The school was built in 1955, during a time when the Cruz Bay area was very quiet and the islands population was under 1,000, according to Sprauve.
There was only a principals office, four classrooms and an auditorium, and people of St. John thought this was the largest building on St. John! Sprauve said, amusing the audience.
In 1960, four more classrooms were added and the following year, another wing and additional offices were built, according to Sprauve, who revealed a long list of additions to the school over the years. This school can stand up to any school in the Virgin Islands, Sprauve said with love and pride.
Ever since JESS began, it had the total involvement and support of the community in fact the schools Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) is the oldest ongoing PTA in the history of the Virgin Islands, according to Sprauve.
The power of so many things lies in the community, said Sprauve, adding that a difference between then and now is the lack of community support. There is no other institution that can take the place of the public schools we need the community to stand behind the school in a positive way.
Sprauve also touched on the long-talked about goal of relocating the school out of the crowded streets of Cruz Bay. Regardless of where or when we move the school, if we do not have the love and support from the community, the school will suffer, said the former educator.
Principal Mario Francis and vice principal Dionne Wells recognized former administrators as well as faculty members who have contributed to making the school what it is today with awards and certificates.
All those gathered for the memorable event were able to reminisce about school days, mingle and enjoy refreshments and cake while being serenaded by tunes from Paradise People.
Other 50th anniversary events included an educational forum on Thursday, November 3, a celebration of Culture Day on the Winston Wells Ball Field on Friday, November 4 and a 50th anniversary ball to celebrate 50 years of education held that evening at the Westin Resort and Villas.