Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw has rushed to head off a protest over the “condemned” Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary School, swiftly unveiling a $2.9 million plan to renovate it.
However, the school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA)is still demanding answers about where the children will be housed during the 12-week renovation process, as some parents consider moving their children to another school.
In a video released Thursday afternoon, Bradshaw revealed that Cabinet had just approved the supplementary financing for “major renovations” at the Lascelles Terrace, Pinelands, St Michael school.
“Given that works are expected to take approximately 12 weeks, arrangements are being put in place to relocate the students and details will be communicated with the PTA shortly to update them on the relocation as well as plans for the refurbishment of the school,” Bradshaw promised.
“Despite the relocation, we have also continued to do extensive renovations on the other buildings and, over the past few months, the Ministry has had to engage a project team of architects, civil engineers, quantity surveyors; and the project, I am pleased to say, is now at the tender stage.”
Shortly after the announcement, PTA president Vernon Forde revealed that a “quiet and peaceful” protest that had been scheduled for Friday at the school, would be called off because of the Minister’s promise.
However, he stressed that irate parents still want more details about the ministry’s plans for their children.
“Right now, parents want to know where their children will be going to school come September 20, 2021,” Forde declared. “As for the money allocated for the school, we hope that these funds will be used to upgrade the school so that it adequately meets the needs of the children.”
“The school needs at least four additional classes, another male and female bathroom that can accommodate at least 15 pupils at a time, increased staff room size to better accommodate the increased staff complement, an IT room, accommodation for the games department which is currently housed in a container, electrical upgrades, and adequate storage, just to name a few.”
Parents are eagerly awaiting talks with the Education Minister for a response to many of the questions they raised during a PTA meeting on Wednesday night.
Forde said “many parents were quite irate about the timing of the announcement to close the school”.
“Since the Minister has said that she will be meeting [with] us, I hope this is done sooner rather than later,” he said.
Bradshaw noted that since 2009, the 25-year-old school building had been plagued with structural problems, with only minor work being done after failed attempts to secure financing through the Caribbean Development Bank.
She also recalled that back in November 2020, significant water damage and flooding compromised the main block, forcing the closure of the primary school.
Consequently, classes were housed at the UWI Open Campus and the Pinelands Seventh-Day Adventist Church.