The AFT’s Virgin Island members have requested that AFT organize an effort to bring AFT volunteer members who are nurses and healthcare professionals to the Virgin Islands to perform student and teacher screenings and bring much needed supplies to local schools. These healthcare volunteers will provide students with screenings for hearing, vision, and dental problems. The AFT has recruited 24 Registered Nurses, including a number of school nurses and hearing specialists, who will be deployed in two teams (one in each USVI school district) for one week to conduct the screenings. The AFT is currently working with the Commissioner of Education in USVI to ensure that its licensed RNs have the waivers required to conduct these health screenings. This initiative aims to screen all of the 9,000 students currently in schools in the USVI, beginning with the youngest students who may not have had any screenings at all since entering school.
The nurses are slated to be in the USVI for one week, from April 8 to April 14, 2018 conducting health screenings. This commitment aims to screen the 9,000 students currently in primary and secondary schools in the USVI, beginning with the youngest students who may not have had any screenings at all since entering school.
The hurricanes that struck the islands in 2017 took a major toll on the US Virgin Islands' capacity to deliver high-quality health services. They also took a toll on the school system as a number of schools suffered severe damage with at least two schools completely destroyed. Schools are doubled up on campuses with shorter classroom hours and inadequate supplies and equipment for all students. American Federation of Teachers local union presidents in St. Thomas-St. John and in St. Croix have visited every school site and met with school nurses, teachers, and school employees, heard their concerns, and assessed the current needs. The staff themselves identified their concerns about the health status of students. Currently only second graders receive screenings (compare this to Philadelphia, which is required to conduct annual vision screenings for all students; hearing screenings in kindergarten and first, second, third, seventh, and 11th grades; dental screenings in grades three and 11, and more). Subsequent to the hurricanes, there is an even greater need to fill the gaps in children's health care services in the USVI, as health services on the islands are severely limited.
The AFT is seeking donations of screening equipment, supplies for schools, and glasses for students who are determined to need them. The AFT is also seeking donations of equipment for students with hearing problems, as well as dental support, to ensure that students in the USVI are healthy and ready to learn.