More classrooms to solve overcrowding in St Mary schools
Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer
TOWER ISLE, St Mary:
EDUCATION MINISTER Ronald Thwaites last Friday announced plans to build more classrooms in St Mary to help combat the issue of chronic overcrowding in the parish's high schools.
Speaking at an event to celebrate the opening of a new classroom at Iona High in Tower Isle, St Mary, the minister noted that although austerity measures had placed tight financial constraints on the Government, he was nonetheless determined to find innovative ways to tackle the congestion problem.
Thwaites told The Gleaner: "I think this is the 15th school we have expanded places for students in the past few months and we're doing this on a difficult budget and without any extra money, but with the cooperation and assistance of the member of parliament [for Western St Mary, Joylan Silvera].
"There is a wonderful campus here at Iona, which can take expansion, so this is the first stage. It is easier for us to add to good schools, rather than build new ones. It's quicker and gives our students the advantage of a full day."
"This morning, we began a tour with MP Silvera at Retreat Primary and Junior High with a view that very soon that can become a high school and remove some of the shift burdens from places like Tacky High and Oracabessa High."
The new classroom at Iona accommodates 45 students and was constructed at a cost of $5 million from the shell of two containers through an innovative collaboration between the school and the Ministry of Education.
According to Iona High's chairman, Rev Dr Richmond Nelson, the project is the first of many partnerships the school is planning.
He said: "This classroom will make a tremendous difference to us, because right now we have students crowding into areas like the library and science laboratory that are not usually used as classrooms, but because they have nowhere else to go, we have to free up those spaces.
"We still need more classrooms and are hoping the minister will be inspired by what he's seen to grant us some more. It's a kind of a selling point to say: Do you see what is possible? Help us to do more."
Iona High's principal, Melva Humes-Johnson, told The Gleaner during an interview in March that what she needed most of all was space for her students.
She said: "It feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel, because children can only learn in comfortable environments."