Pear Tree River Primary undergoes transformation
Pear Tree River Primary School in St Thomas is to play a new role, empowering older students with special needs with the skills they need to enter the world of work. In July of this year, representatives of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) and Digicel Foundation signed an agreement for renovation work, converting the school into a special-needs institution.
Nestled in the hills above Port Morant, Pear Tree River Primary was closed in 2015 due to declining enrolment. The existing school building will be repurposed to accommodate a vocational and skills-training programme for students at the secondary level. When completed, the school will serve as a second campus, complementing Digicel Foundation’s Centre of Excellence in Lyssons, some nine kilometres away.
CEO of Digicel Foundation Charmaine Daniels observed: “Children with special needs require ongoing support as they make their transition to adulthood. In rural areas, their dedicated parents have had a difficult time trying to help their children access quality education. Despite the current challenges with COVID-19, we are pressing ahead with our commitment to these students.”
Daniels added: “Digicel Foundation is very pleased to once again partner with the MOEYI to ensure that these students of high-school age achieve to the very best of their abilities.”
NEED WAS GREAT
Special needs coordinator for Region Two, Avarine Blackwood, agreed that the need was great: “Before 2013, there was a dearth of high-school places for special-needs children. For the most part, they stayed at home.”
Regional Director for Region Two (covering St Mary, St Thomas and Portland) at the MOEYI, Janet Brimm, who signed the agreement, observed that the capacity of the Centre of Excellence in Lyssons was 60 students, “but the demand for places for secondary-school students with special needs is significantly greater.”
The Pear Tree River school should be able to accommodate another 60 students, while social-distancing protocols for COVID-19 will be strictly observed. This arrangement accords with one of Region Two’s core principles of efficiency and the prudent use of resources, Brimm noted.
“Pear Tree River will serve as an extension of the centre in Lyssons. Its feeder schools will include Lyssons Primary, Seaforth Primary and others.” It is situated on sufficient land for vocational subjects like agriculture to be taught.
Renovations will include repairs to the roof, partition walls, bathroom and plumbing repairs, the insulation of windows and painting work. The Pear Tree River special education institution is expected to be ready by October 2020.
“This is the best thing that has ever happened for these kids,” asserted Miss Antoinette Campbell, a member of the Pear Tree River community who joined the meeting. Herself a teacher at Morant Bay Primary School for the past 12 years, she said the community welcomed the school development.
“Digicel Foundation has been a saviour,” said Brimm, expressing her gratitude on behalf of the MOEYI. “The foundation is Region Two’s biggest partner, and when we submitted this proposal, they agreed to help us – without any hesitation whatsoever.”