STATEMENT BY HONOURABLE SHARIE B. DE CASTRO
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS & SPORTS
SIXTH SITTING OF THE FOURTH SESSION OF THE FOURTH
HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS
THURSDAY, 21ST JULY, 2022
SCHOOL MAINTENANCE AND DEVELOPMENT
Madam Speaker, I wish to give a brief update on the maintenance of schools across the Territory.
Madam Speaker, one of the things I have always prided myself on as a citizen of this Territory is quality education. Quality, not only with a vibrant curriculum, but quality in the context of having a conducive environment that promotes effective teaching and learning.
As Minister, the well-being of students, faculty, and educators is a top priority for me. The readiness of schools is a top priority for me. How schools are constructed, retrofitted, designed, and maintained is a top priority for me.
As Minister, I want to understand where we are, mitigate challenges and appropriately handle the impact of any hazard, if there are any.
Madam Speaker, that is why upon taking office, just about two and a half months ago, I requested that the Ministry’s Projects Manager and the Maintenance Manager visit all schools to do an assessment and provide a report, taking into consideration the safety needs of schools and the integrity of the buildings.
This report is required to allow us to plan the necessary work to be done over the summer break and also to ensure that a work plan is in place for consistent and continuous work throughout the school year.
Madam Speaker, let me say that school maintenance is critically important and must be ongoing.
Most of our school structures are 40 years or older, and we recognise opportunities for restructuring and upgrades. The assessments have revealed important information that is vital for decision-making.
For example, on Thursday, 16th June, the Ministry received a report documenting an inspection of the Althea Scatliffe Primary School. The report recommended that the use of the school building be suspended immediately. A primary concern in the report was the structural integrity of the building.
Based on this information, the Ministry agreed that the best option was to err on the side of caution by prioritising the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. As such, a decision was made to close the building effective Friday, 17th June, 2022 at 4:30 p.m. until further notice to ensure the safety of all. The Ministry notified the principal, faculty, and staff of the Althea Scatliffe Primary School of this decision. Additionally, correspondence from the Ministry was also shared with the principal to issue to parents urgently. The Ministry advised the principal to remove all personal items from the building and arrangements have been made to secure furnishings and student documents.
Madam Speaker, we had to move swiftly to close the school to ensure the safety of all users of the building. Currently, we are exploring options for temporarily housing students and we will make an announcement shortly. We must do everything possible to ensure the safety of faculty and students, and this sentiment goes for all schools throughout the Virgin Islands.
Madam Speaker, I must say that the maintenance team has already begun to do remedial works across schools in anticipation of the reopening of schools for the 2022-2023 school year.
I wish to thank the entire team at the Ministry for their hard work thus far, and I will update this Honourable House as we progress further.
In this vein, Madam Speaker, I can also report that the RDA has been working diligently to get other school projects off the ground or completed. The RDA is currently constructing the buildings to house the senior division of the Elmore Stoutt High School, a project that has progressed at a rapid pace since it began on 4th April of this year. This facility which is composed of two classroom blocks, a specialized technical block and an administrative block, has been designed to exacting specifications given to the RDA by the Ministry of Education. As of today, this building is approximately seventy percent complete. Works outstanding are mostly finishes; including some rendering, finishing of floors,
installation of windows and doors, bathroom facilities and external works including a parking lot and road infrastructure.
Madam Speaker I would like to convey my profound appreciation to the Board of Directors of the RDA and the professionals within the RDA and the Ministry for their commitment and tireless effort in executing this project to what is clearly a very high standard. This project Madam Speaker, by the feats achieved thus far in its execution, is a testament to the will and drive of the Virgin Islands people to work with each other to accomplish great things, and in this case for our most treasured resource; our young people.
In addition, Madam Speaker, the RDA is now in the procurement stage for the Eslyn Henley Richiez Learning Centre, a facility that will be purpose built to provide a safe and conducive learning environment for the differently abled persons in our community. I expect to make a public statement on the particulars associated with this project in the near future.
Madam Speaker, I would like to also inform you that the Jost Van Dyke Primary School is in the final stages of the procurement process, and that we expect that within the next eighteen months that the children of Jost Van Dyke will have a purpose-built facility to cater to their educational needs.
Madam Speaker, as a territory, as we seek to ensure that we develop our human resources, our children, to become the future leaders, we have no choice but to make sure our schools are ready, safe and equipped for quality learning to take place.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.