By November, the much-touted special academy for alternative education for students with behavioural and other challenges, should be completed at Erdiston, St. Michael.
Though no date has yet been given for when the academy will be open to its first students, Minister of Education Ronald Jones said the new facility would be different from what now holds at the Edna Nicholls Centre in St. Peter.
“There are students in our schools who are unsettled, either because of the environment, because of their emotional, psychological, sometimes learning deficits and therefore those schools are too large to cater to those peculiar needs of children.
“This is an academy where those children will better be able to be served in smaller numbers. They are children who don’t have major learning challenges but might have behavioural challenges and behavioural challenges stem from all kinds of sources, either domestic environment, the school environment of itself might be problematic… so you give them an environment where numbers are smaller. Just under 100 students will be accommodated in that school at any one time,” said Jones.
Project Manager with the Ministry’s Education Project Implementation Unit, Richard Harrison put the project cost at about $1.7 million, stating that it was scheduled to be finished around November.
The Ministry’s senior draughtsman, Andrew Parris, explained that the previous building, which previously housed the Erdiston Primary school before, had not been extended, though some walls needed to be reinforced and were therefore knocked out and replaced.
The plans include a library, administration block, computer lab, offices for two guidance counsellors, a nutrition room, bathrooms and main hall, in addition to about six classrooms.
Jones explained: “We bring on board the guidance and counselling, the psychological services. You bring on board the social workers who give you an understanding of their domestic environment so the school can put systems in place … to boost them, to empower those students to self-actualise and realise their own potential…
“This will be a school which will cater to finding the best mechanism to educate those children. It will also be looking at issues of educational intelligence, issues of where students find their spiritual being. In other words, you will have to work harder here than in the traditional secondary schools. Enrichment programmes will be part of the roll out as well.
“It is not going to be a place where principals will say I want to send children and get rid of half of the school or half of a classroom, so that we can work a programme which will mainstream these students. This is not either a seven-day institution or a two-week institution. Once you come here, you expect to stay here for a while until we see the change or the modification of the behaviour or the transformation of the person so then that they can return either to the school they were at before or complete here; we will have that kind of structure, that kind of programme.”
He added: “It is going to be a caring, considerate, empathetic institution. So only the best of teachers you will find in here, only the best of instructors you are going to find in here. People who understand human beings, people who care for human beings you will find at this facility. It’s been long in coming, been talked about for many years but we will get there.” (LB)