In trouble! - Portland Cottage Primary School principal fears property destruction by shelter occupants
Even though he has no objections to public schools being used as shelters during hurricane seasons, principal of the Portland Cottage Primary School Dale Edwards believes that his school will be in trouble if a hurricane hits Jamaica this year.
The problem of having to pick up the pieces after persons who use the shelter go back home is never an easy one with which to deal.
"It is a good and a bad experience. Good in the sense that persons have somewhere that is fairly safe, but bad in the sense that after they leave, as a school, we have to start back over again in terms of the damage that is done to the property," Edwards told The Gleaner.
Some of the damage caused by shelter occupants during previous hurricane seasons still has not been repaired and Edwards fears that the issue will be compounded this season.
"One of the main issues that we have with persons coming here when we have disasters is the bathrooms. They literally tear off the boards to make a fire. As a shelter, some of the things that take place become unsanitary; the conditions become bad. The cleaning has to be done, benches are destroyed, the boards, the chairs - everything," he said.
"There are places you literally have to ensure that you lock properly because persons will come and try to break the doors. There are unscrupulous persons who think that maybe money is inside the building, inside the offices, so they try to hit down the doors to break in to see what they can get. Any sort of equipment, computers, and so on, persons will come and try to steal it."
EDUCATING THE PUBLIC
Though not being able to state the specific monetary value of the damage over the years, he warned that if persons are not educated on the issue, then taxpayers will continue to bear the burden.
"I don't have a problem with schools being used as shelters. It's a government building, and the school belongs to the community. I think there has to be greater emphasis on educating the persons who are using the schools as shelter, that they have a responsibility to protect the school and the school property. I think that has to be utmost in the Government's mind in terms of protecting the school property because it's going to cost us as taxpayers to correct the wrongs that have been done," Edwards said.