by Latoya Burnham
With the demand for nursery type educational institutions increasing, Minister of Education Ronald Jones says he is running to keep pace. And in another six weeks he is hoping to start construction on a 90-children capacity facility in the Holders Hill area.
Identifying the old police station as the location, Jones said this was just one of five or six nurseries he wanted to get started across the island to look after the growing populations to the west, and southern areas of the island.
Speaking this morning after planting trees at the Blackman and Gollop Primary and the Thelma Berry Nursery schools in Christ Church, Jones verified that the preparatory work and drawings on the Holders Hill plans had been done, but they were now trying to acquire land to create safe entrance and exit from the property, which is situated in a corner on the Holders/Durants stretch of road.
“Even though Government owns land to the west of the building, to come straight into the school from going around what I would call the back, we had to acquire some land and that is to be acquired via discussion. I think they have agreed now with the owners to give us the strip of land which we will pay for, which will take us into the back of the school so that you would not have coming down Holders Hill/Durants, any clustering of traffic and students will be secure.”
The Education Minister said the project is being funded by the Maria Holder Trust and he estimates the cost at about $3 million, inclusive of the purchase of land and the planned refurbishment.
He had mentioned during a brief address at Thelma Berry Nursery, shortly before planting a custard apple tree in celebration of the 50th anniversary of universally free education in Barbados, that the Christ Church-based nursery was being looked at as a model for the Holders Hill project.
“The Maria Holder Trust will do the funding for that school and I am hoping very shortly we should be able to start that project. We are just awaiting the assent of the Cabinet overall for all of the schools to be done in the next year or two. We are a little behind because I actually thought that three to four months ago we would have been able to start some kind of construction but we have had some hiccups, you know within the Governmental circle, different agencies have to make an input. So Housing and Lands, Ministry of Finance, and also the Solicitor General’s Chambers because where there is a memorandum of understanding, you have to have the legal eyes on it. So I am now trying to run faster in order to get these projects going,” the minister discloseds.
“In truth and in fact I am looking within the next six weeks to have something started. We don’t have to have too much headaches because we are not changing the exterior facade and therefore you would not have too much problems like you do with a new facility and we are not extending. We are just doing all the internal, it is more of a major refurbishment like how we took on this project here at Thelma Berry, that too will be a project like that; but all the other five or six would be green area solutions, brand new nursery schools.”
Other nurseries, he revealed were planned for Sayes Court; the old St. Alban’s Infants School which will be cleared and more land acquired to make way for a school there, and at Gall Hill No. 2, for the populations of Kingsland, Gall Hill, Lodge Road and Wotton in Christ Church.
The two primary schools in the latter area, he said now had around 600 students with very little room for additional three to four-year-olds.
“So we would be able to take at least 120, 140 or so students between that age three age group and place them in a completely new environment, I hope again over the next two years.”
There were also plans for a school at the corner of Gemswick and Oldbury to service St. Philip area, and some major work is also planned for the old Co-operative High School to turn that into a nursery school and provide more space for Charles F. Broome Memorial, by giving the Government Hill Nursery property over to that school.
“We are looking at it in a sensible and rational way. Government Hill school is one of the older ones in the country. It is a feeder almost to Charles F. [Broome], so they need the space and we will do a brand new one on the space there.”
Overall, Jones said these six new nursery schools would hold between 600 and 650 students, as figures had shown that over the last four to five years there were about 1,500 to 1,600 three-to six-year-olds coming into the system.