A new school for children with disabilities on St. Croix – the Coral Reef Academy – will have a jump start thanks to a team donation totaling $27,500, coordinated by Cane Bay Cares, a service initiative of Cane Bay Partners VI, LLLP.

The donation is broken down with $12,500 coming from Cane Bay Cares education initiatives fund, $10,000 from CBC’s disaster relief fund with the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, $2,500 from CBP Co-Founder Kirk Chewning and Leah Chewning, and $2,500 from CBP Co-Founder David Johnson and Jackie Goodyear.

“Since establishing Cane Bay Cares, we’ve done our best to assess the needs on St. Croix and provide support where it will have the most meaningful impact, and that thinking led us here,” Chewning said. “Much of our long-term focus has been on education, and here we have a program that seeks to help those most in need and we believe this will have a tremendous impact.”

The donation was made to assist the school in its critical development of components such as the sensory room and specialized playground. The school will address the individual educational and behavioral needs of each student. Its academic program is based on the TEACCH method, which emphasizes visual learning and enables teachers to adapt their style and intervention strategies. Special education teachers will create a personal learning experience that considers individual needs and develops specific goals for each student.

The school was founded by Dr. Lindsy Wagner, a Pediatric Neuropsychologist, who has been providing psychological services in the USVI for nearly 10 years. Her practice, Island Therapy Solutions, has specialized in treating children with behavioral and emotional issues, addressing their needs as well as providing training to their guardians. Dr. Wagner observed a gap in educational opportunities for her patients and sought to address that need. As a result, many students will benefit from a comprehensive approach to their educational and emotional needs since they also can receive Applied Behavior Analysis services in conjunction with Island Therapy Solutions.

“We are thrilled to be able to offer these services to the young people of the Virgin Islands. Particularly in the last year, the school system has been stressed by hurricane damage and the rebuild effort. And this will ensure our most in-need student population is able to thrive into the future,” Dr. Wagner said. “And, it’s thanks to donations like this that make this opportunity possible.”

The ultimate goal of this work will be to empower students with the skills they need to integrate into traditional public or private schools. This year, they also will continue to fundraise for their scholarship fund, increase enrollment, and expand to St. Thomas. It is anticipated that the school will be a game changer in terms of allowing families to stay on island for the care they need.

“The vision of the Coral Reef Academy aligns perfectly with the mission of Cane Bay Cares,” Johnson said. “Kirk and I have seen the great work that Dr. Wagner and the entire Island Therapy team has done in the community and we are proud of them for taking the next step and delivering even more critical services to the St. Croix community.”

Cane Bay Cares is an advocate for economic development in the community and actively supports services like Coral Reef Academy, which allow St. Croix to retain and recruit families/ workforce that are critical to the community’s long-term success. CBC’s long-term focus is on education, with its program project-based after school program Operation Inspire, and by supporting organizations like the World Ocean School, KidsCount VI, Project Promise, Junior Achievement and more.

About the Coral Reef Academy: Coral Reef Academy is a unique school located in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which began in fall 2018. We are passionate about providing an exceptional educational experience for students with autism and developmental disabilities. The roots of our program are grounded in the TEACCH method, giving students the best opportunity for learning. This will be an unprecedented approach to providing services to children with autism and developmental disabilities.

About Cane Bay Cares: Cane Bay Cares is a service initiative of St. Croix-based Cane Bay Partners VI, LLLP and a project of local 501c3 St. Croix Foundation. Its long-term mission is to raise awareness and support for critical issues facing the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands. It was established in response to the devastating impact two category five hurricanes had on the USVI with targeted relief efforts on St. Croix. The organization is committed to addressing both short and long-term issues facing the island and its residents. All donations to Cane Bay Cares are through STXF and are 100% tax deductible.