Consider schools with housing developments, urge principals
Giving the green light for new housing developments in the St Ann, Trelawny, and St James belt without ensuring adequate support structures are in place, including school spaces and recreational areas, could be a recipe for disaster, two headmasters have warned.
Linvern Wright, principal of the William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny, and Raymon Treasure, headmaster at the York Castle High School in St Ann, believe that building more homes to boost the population in certain areas without proper assessment and expanding or building new schools could put many institutions under severe strain.
“With all this (new housing developments) happening, no schools have been expanded. Neither have there been any new schools built,” said Wright, who is also the chairman of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools.
His concern goes beyond the classroom as he said in some areas, other key infrastructures were lacking.
“Very few [housing developments[ have properly equipped areas for recreation. There are no cultural centres in Trelawny and the Trelawny Municipal Corporation is out of its depth in managing the increased pressure on the town (Falmouth),” said Wright.
“The National Environment and Planning Agency has been disastrous in its management of the environmental affairs of the parish,” added Wright, who also serves as the chairman of South Trelawny Environmental Agency.
Treasure is also calling on the Government to give more attention to supporting infrastructure when contemplating new housing developments.
“The whole Drax Hall belt in St Ann has seen a number of houses. Throughout the parish, over 3,000 houses have been built [recently]. The only buildings outside of houses are shopping centres. There are absolutely no areas for the children to play, so they stay home and play on their tablets,” said Treasure.
“Also, there is added pressure on the schools. I now will have use all the spaces I have for classrooms,” said Treasure, as he looks forward to September when a full resumption of face-to-face classes could be announced.
“Disaster Risk Management [Act], through public health, recommends a distance of six feet between each person. At my school, I have 1,400 students with a ratio of 40 to 1 instead of the recommended 25 to 1. With no expansion to the school’s buildings, I have to begin to timetable a blended approach – some online and learning from home while others are at school,” said Treasure.
He acknowledged, however, that Education Minister Fayval Williams has promised to give favourable consideration to a recommendation that St Ann be equipped with two additional high schools to satisfy the demand for spaces.
“I pointed out the problems facing us and she agreed to give the recommendation favourable attention,” said Treasure. “Prime Minister Andrew Holness recently announced plans to build 70,000 houses in this term of office. Nowhere in the announcement was there any mention of schools ... .”