Hopes Gilbert Institute will not be closed
Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, has hinted that Gilbert Institute would be spared closure as his ministry invests in a new playground at the school.
Gilbert, the island's only primary level school for the deaf and hard of hearing, was one of four schools earmarked for possible closure under the Bermuda Government's school reorganisation (Score) plan.
However, the old playground has been torn down and work has begun on the installation of a new one, raising hopes of a long-term future for the school.
Answering questions from this newspaper about whether the move indicated Gilbert was in the clear, Mr Scott said: “I am very aware that Gilbert has the only deaf and hard-of-hearing primary programme and that is something that needs to continue.
“The fact that we are investing in a playground at Gilbert should give some indication — people can draw their own conclusions into that.
“However, I am a technical person and you can never say never.
“There are a lot more things that need to be considered if we were ever to go down the road of school consolidation.”
PTA secretary at the Gilbert Institute Suzanne DeCouto said she was heartened by the fact that the Government appeared to be reconsidering the viability of closing the school.
She said: “When I first saw that they were tearing down the playground I thought, oh no. I remember vaguely when they gave us a sheet to tell us what maintenance they were doing in the schools over the summer, one of the lines was a new playground but it was saying ‘pending'. Now they have announced a new playground. It has been something that we have needed for so long because it has been falling apart. so it is very exciting that we are getting it.
“It is a lot of money for that playground so I wouldn't think they would want to put in a brand new one and then close the school down. It seems like a big investment.
“It is a positive outlook for us that is for sure. Gilbert is an important school in the community and as the only primary school for the deaf and hard of hearing. It is important to the neighbourhood, and goes back for so many years — there are so many people who have been there and know what good it has done for them.”
Asked whether he could provide any update with regards to the closure of the other schools — Heron Bay Primary School, Prospect Primary School and St David's Primary School — or consolidation of numerous others, Mr Scott said: “Right now our focus is on getting the maintenance sorted out.
“We are looking at strategic planning and alignment so that we are in a position to provide a better service to our children.
“I believe we can do a better job for our children.”
Maintenance work is also being carried out at Harrington Sound Primary and Victor Scott Primary, two of the lowest-rated schools in terms of health and safety, according to the Score report, which was published last February. The document, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, highlighted a health and safety crisis across primary schools, with problems including rat and termite infestations, faulty bathroom facilities and unstable play structures.
• A schedule of completed and planned maintenance work is available via www.moed.bm