Sat | Sep 30, 2023

Hopewell High School building at risk of collapsing

Published:Monday | June 5, 2023 | 12:07 AMBryan Miller/Gleaner Writer
The preimeter fence (right) has broken away through a land slippage at a section of land separating Hopewell High School in Hanover and the church property. There are fears that the land slippage may impact the school building at left.
The preimeter fence (right) has broken away through a land slippage at a section of land separating Hopewell High School in Hanover and the church property. There are fears that the land slippage may impact the school building at left.

Western Bureau:

The fears of the chairman of the board of governors, and administrators of the Hopewell High School, in Hanover, Dalton Hastings, are being realised, which are the potential collapse of a block of classrooms at that institution, and the endangerment of the lives of more than 200 students, because of excavation work carried out by a religious denomination on adjacent lands to the school compound.

This as, following heavy rains in Hanover over the past few days, the section of the school compound which borders the plot of land, owned and excavated by the church denomination, Doer of Faith Church of God, in Orchard Gardens, Hopewell, has experienced a land slippage. The slippage has compromised a section of the school’s perimeter fencing, which is now hanging about 50 feet in the air without any support, and because of the proximity of the slippage to one of the blocks of classrooms at the school, the situation has rendered that block of classrooms in danger of collapsing.

According to Hastings, the Ministry of Education and Youth’s regional office and the Hanover Municipal Corporation (HMC) have both been notified about the situation, and had both promised to visit the school last Friday to do their inspections.

Verbal stop order

Signs of the potential problem first surfaced in October last year, when the school’s administration drew to the attention of the HMC that the church was excavating the adjacent land, and was creating a precipice near to the school’s garden plot. The HMC’s bbuilding and enforcement officers visited the excavated plot of land and issued an immediate verbal stop order on the pastor of the church, Courtney Kerr, as well as a written stop order three days later.

“What is necessary to support that precipitous fall is not an ordinary retaining wall, and nothing else should be done on this property until a drawing for such a wall is presented for examination and approval at the HMC,” the building and enforcement officer told Kerr then.

Checks by The Gleaner have revealled that no attempt has been made to construct the required retaining wall, while construction continued on the church facilities in breach of the HMC order.

Efforts to contact Kerr were unsuccessful, but head of the Doer of Faith Church of God denomination, Bishop Terrence Gordon, when contacted, told The Gleaner that he would be attaching a high level of urgency to the present situation, with a view to arriving at a solution to the problem.

While admitting that he was aware of the dangerous situation that now exists in the vicinity of the school garden, he stated that plans within the denomination are to build the required retaining wall before the actual church building is constructed.

“We are conscious of the fact that the area is now extremely dangerous, and we are cognizant of the fact that our obligation is to protect that area before we do the building,” he stated.

Gordon argued that he was not aware of the recent land slippage, but promised to visit the site as soon as possible.

“I am the head of the organisation, and I want to ensure that things are done in a respectable, orderly and lawful manner,” he noted.

Hastings was not amused by what he termed the “foot dragging”. However, he claimed serious thought was now being given to whether or not the block of classrooms nearest to the land slippage is still structurally safe for the students who occupy it at any given time. He said that, as a school everything within their power was done to draw attention to, and curb the potential danger which was evident from beginning.

“As it is now the demonstration agricultural plot for the agricultural students cannot be used now, so they will be losing that experience in terms of student learning,” he stated.

“Secondly we are running the risk of the immediate classroom to the area might have to be abandoned for a while,” he pointed out.

Hastings expressed the opinion that outside of the actions of the HMC the school body might have to view the matter as a potential legal matter.

“We hope that good sense can prevail and we all can reach an amicable solution to the matter,” he opined.