$100m school-fencing programme coming
The Government is to set aside $100 million next year to build and repair perimeter fences at schools across the island, but this is just a fraction of the estimated $2 billion needed to adequately secure schoolyards across the island.
"I have already programmed through the permanent secretary and his team $100 million starting next year of infrastructure ... for fencing," Reid told a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's central Kingston offices last Thursday.
"A lot of schools have been asking for fencing, so we will put that on the programme," added Reid, as he declared that school safety is among his ministry's main priorities.
According to Reid, the money towards the fencing will augment already implemented safety mechanisms such as metal detectors, resources for uniformed safe schools officers, and the planned implementation of closed-circuit televisions across schools.
"For the first time last year, Government provided a budget for uniform groups of $10 million. Last calendar year we also had 400 apprentice officers that were trained as part of our safety and security programme in various schools, particularly primary schools. The budget for that was $75.2 million," said Reid.
The plan to allocate money to improve the perimeter security of schools has been welcomed by Assistant Police Superintendent Coleridge Minto, director of safety and security in the education ministry.
"This has been a cry for many years from our principals in terms of perimeter fencing. We previously never had a budget for it and so $100 million in the first year is significant," Minto told the Editors' Forum.
According to Minto, violence in schools is trending down, with 200 major fights recorded since the start of this year, down from approximately 900 in 2012.
He noted that while the perimeter fencing is essential to school safety, most of the violent incidents involving students occur outside school grounds.