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Burch: school work on track for start of year

Burch gives an update on school maintenance at Heron Bay Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

All of the island’s public schools will be safe for staff and students before the start of the school year, according to Government.

Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, Minister of Public Works, said there is work still to be done, but he was confident it will be finished before September 10.

Colonel Burch said: “One or two schools have issues that we expect will be addressed by the time school is open.

“If you went to Harrington Sound today, you would find there are some areas that are still being remediated, but by the time school opens they will be ready to be occupied.”

Colonel Burch said teams have completed and signed off on 781 of the 1,337 identified tasks, with more expected to be completed before the start of the school year. Workers are also on track to complete 30 of 39 capital projects in the schools, with the remaining nine to be addressed during the school year.

Colonel Burch said: “It has been all hands on deck. In practical terms what this means is all seven work units and 102 tradesmen of the Building Section are working in schools.”

He added that $3 million had been budgeted for work, and the amount spent will be “very close to that”.

Colonel Burch said: “The largest amount to date was $302,000 for the new gymnasium roof at Dellwood Middle School. Salaries, materials, supplies and small contracts are estimated to be an additional $1.5 million, some of which will be capitalised depending on the works.

“Schools are a priority for this government, and funds will be moved from other projects to cover any shortfall.”

Diallo Rabain, Minister of Education, said the Government are in the “final stages” of repair work and cleaning at the majority of the island’s public schools.

Mr Rabain said workers had renovated restrooms at Francis Patton Primary and Port Royal Primary, fumigated both Dalton E Tucker Primary and the assembly hall at Purvis Primary and installed perimeter fencing at several schools.

Hallway and classroom floors were resurfaced at East End Primary, Harrington Sound Primary, Gilbert Institute and Purvis Primary. And Mr Rabain said wi-fi and surge suppressors have been installed at all of the island’s primary schools.

Mr Rabain said the Department of Education is in the process of creating a user policy for the wi-fi, which will be given out to teachers at the start of the school year.

He added: “All of our schools are expected to open on schedule on September 10 so that our educators can fulfil our mission of providing all students with equitable access to holistic, varied and high-quality instruction that is culturally relevant and empowers students to reach their full potential.”

Colonel Burch said other projects to make the schools more energy efficient are under way. He said: “One primary school will serve as a pilot project for the instillation of more energy-efficient LED lighting to reduce electricity costs.”

Colonel Burch added that schools are part of a government-wide solar panel instillation programme.

He said: “We are fairly well down that road, so school buildings will be part of that process, as will all the other buildings in the government estate that will be considered.”

The state of public school buildings has caused concern in recent years. TN Tatem Middle School pupils were forced to relocate due to mould problems and Harrington Sound Primary School children were sent home for several days because of an infestation of bird mites.

Dellwood Middle School was forced to delay opening last year due to mould. Parents, teachers and pupils helped to clean up several schools so children started the new term on time.