Another rural primary school has been officially condemned.
Less than a year after the closure of the Society Primary in St John, the Chalky Mount Primary School in St Andrew has suffered the same fate.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon, Minister of Education Ronald Jones revealed that engineers had declared the school “structurally unsound”, and as a result it would not be re-opening for classes.
“The walls, the columns, the floors are all compromised,” said Jones, while noting that a series of tests had been carried out on the building.
“You can see where the land has sunken to the north and that took time. We have seen the movement of land in stark detail at Chalky Mount. It is the safety of the students and the teachers that is our primary concern. We have to abandon the building as of now,” Jones explained.
The Minister of Education, who was speaking ahead of a town hall meeting with parents and guardians of students attending Chalky Mount, said for the remainder of the current school term, the 105 students would be accommodated at the nearby Wesleyan Holiness and Seventh Day Adventist churches, and come September they would be absorbed into the A DaCosta Edwards Primary School in Belleplaine, St Andrew.
Ahead of this evening’s two-hour meeting, which took place at 5:30 p.m. at the Chalky Mount Wesleyan Holiness Church, Jones had also revealed that students and teachers were given Monday and Tuesday off as a precautionary measure.
“We at the Ministry have been monitoring the school since November, 2014. At that time the engineer said that we have to monitor the building and make preparations for movement. During 2014 there was heavy rainfall and the engineers concluded that it would have contributed to the unsoundness of the structure,” the Minister of Education explained.
He recalled that ministry officials kept up weekly measurements of the movement and the issues surrounding the building. However, between the engineer’s last visit and the one last week, he said there were even more substantial movements, which led to a decision that the students and staff could no longer occupy the building.
During tonight’s meeting, Jones addressed concerns about the move to DaCosta Edwards. He assured parents and guardians that there was adequate space to accommodate those coming over from Chalky Mount since the official role at DaCosta Edwards was currently over 100 and the school was built to accommodate over 400 students.
Some parents were also concerned about the quality of tuition that would be offered at DaCosta Edwards. However, the Minister announced that Laureen Hinds, the current principal of Chalky Mount, would replace Barbara Broome-Bailey as the new principal of the amalgamated school. Broome-Bailey is to be transferred to another Government-run learning institution.
Before a gathering that also included the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Education Harry Husbands, the Acting Chief Education Officer Karen Best, permanent secretary June Chandler and St Andrew candidate Irene Sandiford-Garner, Jones gave the parents and guardians of the students the assurance that a dedicated bus service will be provided from September to take the students to the A DaCosta Primary School and back.