By Elesha George
Soggy grounds, expansion work and the threat of an increase in the mosquito population have all contributed to yet another school being closed in as many days.
The Principal of the St Mary’s Secondary School (SMSS), Casey Phillip, took the decision to cancel classes and said “school may be out until the weather lets up”.
The school has been closed since Tuesday, January 14th after the unusual increased showers and high winds created a parking and walking challenge for teachers.
“The condition is such that when it rains very heavily, the parking situation at the school for teachers is compromised badly. Teachers are unable to find proper parking, they are unable, for the most part, to exit their vehicles without stepping into water, into mud,” Phillip told OBSERVER media yesterday.
He said that while the classrooms remain unaffected, “the teachers are not able to park, they’re not really able to come to work and it’s not advisable for them to park on the outside and walk into the school yard because then you risk teachers having their vehicles damaged”.
Phillip shared that some years ago, the school was faced with an increase in the mosquito population and in trying to resolve the issue, a number of students fell ill in the process.
“What would have happened, I would have called in the Central Board of Health to spray and that in itself became an added problem because they would have sprayed during school hours and that would have caused a number of students to become ill…We don’t have the mosquito problem per sé right now, but as a precaution we still ask them to spray so that nobody gets sick because that is always possible”, he explained.
The principal said after meeting with a number of Ministry officials from the Ministry of Public Works on the matter, however, “there have been no real solutions. There have been a lot of talk and a lot of promises to be quite honest”.
The situation has become complicated, he said, and with the current expansion and upgrade of the school plant under construction and with heavy-duty equipment traversing the compound, it has compromised the lone road which leads in and out of the school.
Director of Education, Clare Browne confirmed that he received an email on Tuesday morning from Principal Phillip, informing him of the situation at the school plant.
He said he made immediate contact with the Ministry of Public Works to facilitate a request for gravel to be brought on to the compound but while the Ministry has “consented to assisting”, Browne told OBSERVER media that given the high request for the aggregate, the Ministry was unable to provide the gravel the same day.
It nevertheless gave a commitment to have the gravel delivered on Tuesday morning. However, up to press time there had been no confirmation that the gravel had been delivered.
The Education Director also took the time to explain the land challenges at SMSS over the years, telling our newsroom that the building itself was built on reclaimed land. That, in addition to other factors, is believed to have contributed to the poor drainage in the area and the present ongoing situation.
Browne said at one point the area was not being used after even after a building was erected because of “certain challenges with the compound”. The first institution to be facilitated in the area was the St Mary’s Centre of Excellence – a post primary school – that was converted into St Mary’s Secondary School in 2010.
Now, even as the Education Ministry continues its expansion work, Browne informed that contractors have been trying to find ways to create a proper waterway for the area.
The closure of the SMSS has affected about 210 students and about 50 staff members.