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Rich histories of schools earmarked for closure

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West End Primary School (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Port Royal Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Heron Bay Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Gilbert Institute (Google image)

Nine primary schools face possible closure under Government’s far reaching education reform proposals. Here Sarah Lagan looks at the proud history of four of the schools affected. The Royal Gazette will publish the history of the remaining five tomorrow.

West End Primary School – established 1869

Principal: Trina Cariah

Motto: Forward Together

West End Primary School has a long and rich history dating back to 1869. Back then, there were only two government schools for children of colour – Huntley School and West End Primary School.

It opened as a one-room school house and its first principal was WR Perinchief. Its students were known to have travelled barefoot on the back of box carts. Several educational sites would eventually merge to form the West End Primary School.

In 1915, the Department of Education became the body governing the educational system and it appointed Arthur Hodgson as its first teacher.

The school was soon moved to a new building west of the Royal Naval Cricket Field. Here it was called West End Grammar School.

As enrolment increased, the school was moved to a new building at the site of the extension at Sandys Secondary School known as “Flat-top”. With eight classrooms it became filled to capacity.

The school’s house system was introduced in 1932 with the colours blue and gold.

West End was poorly maintained over the years and, children could not attend when it was raining because the desks and floors became saturated. Despite many protests and pleas by the Parent Teacher Association to the Board of Education for improvements, it wasn’t until 1944 that a new school was completed under the direction of Somerset builder Algernon Sinclair Harford.

After more extensions a new plan had to be implemented to meet increasing demand – the highest recorded enrolment was 579. West End School became divided. Boaz Island School was erected to accommodate the children from the most eastern part of Sandys Parish.

In 1962, the school’s overflow was housed in a temporary wooden structure and eventually an assembly hall was added along with six extra classrooms.

Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance attended West End as did the late C Eugene Cox who served as the Progressive Labour Party’s Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier.

Part of mission: “As a caring community, we respect and value diversity; nurturing each person as we develop to our full potential.”

Port Royal Primary School – established 1935

Principal: Joann Dill

Motto: Aim High

Port Royal Primary School was opened in 1935 by Amanda MT Eustace who previously ran the small Greenfield school in Southampton.

The school began as a three-room building and cost 1,882 shillings and seven pence to construct. School fees were one shilling and six pence per week and many of its students came from farming homes in the area.

In 1935, parents petitioned for the school to become vested.

The following year, the School Society, the forerunner to the PTA, was formed to elect two members to the board of Port Royal Governors which took power.

In 1938, the school field was excavated. The school was expanded in 1949 and then Governor, Lieutenant General Sir Alexander Hood, opened the new wing on June 15, 1950.

In 1950, the original three house names, School, Port and Royal, were changed to Conyers, after Sir Reginald Conyers, lawyer, MCP and Speaker of the House of Assembly; Bell, after Dr Dunbar Bell, MCP, member of the Board of Education and chairman of the first Board of Governors; and Powell, after Gayous Powell, JP, MCP, member of the Board of Governors.

Port Royal was segregated until September, 1965.

A fire in the principal’s office on September 29, 1966 destroyed the school’s records and rendered the building unfit for use. The school was temporarily moved to Warwick Camp and while the school was empty, a new extension was built consisting of the hall, changing rooms, Primary One and the music classroom.

The children returned in January of 1967 and the new wing was officially opened by the Governor, Lord Martonmere.

In 1976, the school changed from a vested school to a maintained school run by the Board of Education and parents no longer had to pay fees.

Heron Bay Primary School – 1925

Principal: Francine McMahon

Motto: We Learn Through Experience

Heron Bay School was established in 1925 as a three-room building that was originally a private home. The school was then known as Southampton East School.

At the age of just 21, Elsie Bascome was its first teaching head. Back then 34 students were enrolled.

Ms Bascome was accompanied by an assistant teacher and a monitor.

Teaching was difficult as many classes had to be taught in the same classroom.

In 1926, the government took over the school.

In 1953, the new school was built on its current premises.

Francine Mc Mahon, its current principal, said: “Together we will dream more, learn more, do more and ultimately become more”.

Part of mission: “To create a safe, caring community that nurtures, develops and empowers all students to embrace their experiences in order to reach their personal best”.

Gilbert Institute – 1930

Acting principal: Jana Pitcher

Motto: Perseverantia Vincit (With Perserverence We Shall Conquer)

In about 1930, Marion Porter-Smith set up a school for Portuguese children at Dudley Hill in Paget.

It was originally situated in a house.

In 1932, the then director of Education CGC Gilbert prompted the building of a school house.

Will Onions, a well-known Bermuda architect, designed the building and it was opened on May 26, 1933.

The Governor, Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Cubitt named it after Mr Gilbert.

In 1953, after 20 years of service, Mrs Porter-Smith returned to Canada and Albert Young took over. From then, the school expanded its enrolment, especially with American naval base children.

With a leaving age of 15, Gilbert was more like a junior high school.

The school has two houses – blue and red. Edward Elmhirst designed the school coat of arms. The school song was written by Shirley Bacon and arranged by Pamela Dunn.

Part of mission: “The fundamental goal of the school is to produce healthy, happy, and contributing members of the society.”

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Published March 10, 2021 at 8:30 am (Updated March 17, 2021 at 1:47 pm)

Rich histories of schools earmarked for closure

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