Thu | Jul 16, 2020

Hurricane shelter deemed unsafe for residents

Published:Monday | June 29, 2020 | 12:15 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Debby Donaldson
Debby Donaldson

With preparations in high gear for the 2020 hurricane season, Debby Donaldson, board chairman of Rest Primary School in Milk River, Clarendon, is expressing concern about the condition the school is in, especially because it is a designated shelter in the event of a hurricane.

In an interview with The Gleaner, Donaldson said she has been in communication with the Ministry of Education’s maintenance department since last year regarding the issues.

“I spoke to the maintenance person from the Ministry of Education and was asked to put my concerns in writing, which my secretary did, and it was submitted with photos of the cracks in the wall,” she said. To date, nothing has happened.

Affected residents in Milk River have been using Rest Primary as the shelter for years, but according to Donaldson, the school is now “an accident waiting to happen”.

“Should a hurricane come, it is not a true shelter. There were cracks in the wall before, but since the 7.7 earthquake which rattled Jamaica in January, the cracks have gotten worse,” she pointed out, adding that if residents went there for shelter, with the cracks so wide, they would get wet from the rain pouring in through the cracks.

“My concern is to ensure the building is safe before we invite people to take shelter,” she said.

BLESSING IN DISGUISE

Donaldson sees COVID-19 as a blessing in disguise where the children’s safety is concerned, as she said with them not being in school, she doesn’t have to worry about the building suddenly collapsing on them.

“I really worry when the children are there because they are so fragile ... anything can happen. When adults can run out of the building (should it cave in), I’d hate to think of what could happen to the children,” she said.

Councillor for the division, Carlton Bailey, said he is aware of the situation and admits to being worried himself that on any given day, something might happen and hurt the kids.

“It’s probably a godsend why we are not having school properly this year,” he said, adding that he believes the ministry is “dragging its foot on the whole issue”.