MANDEVILLE, Manchester — A large section of Mount St Joseph Preparatory School was destroyed by fire Saturday evening, forcing administrators to make arrangements to have only grade six students return to school today after the Ash Wednesday mid-term holiday.
Approximately 500 students are on the register of the Manchester Road school.
Yesterday, chair of the school board, Sister Susan Frazer, said efforts were being made to quickly "regularise" the school environment but eventually they will have to rebuild.
She said a task force, which included the principal, teachers and members of the community, "was pulled together" to facilitate the re-opening of school today for grade six students preparing for the Grade Six Achievement Test due in a few weeks.
Sister Frazer said it should take about a week before the remainder of the students can be accommodated as currently there is no electricity and water at the school.
She said merchants in Mandeville will be approached for help in getting partitions for the kindergarten classes.
The building, which Frazer said was the old convent built in 1934, housed living quarters for staff, a library and a kindergarten classroom.
No one was hurt in the fire but the five residents lost personal belongings.
Rohan Powell, assistant superintendent at the Mandeville Fire Station, told the Observer that the loss is estimated in the region of $50 million.
Powell said that the fire department was called at 5:10 pm Saturday. He said it took one unit from the Mandeville Fire Station, one from the May Pen Fire Station, two from Alpart and one unit from Windalco, along with seven private water trucks to finally put out the blaze some minutes after 10:00 pm.
The total cooling down operation was completed after 1:00 am yesterday.
He said investigations are ongoing to determine how the fire started.
Sister Frazer said that she is not certain to what extent the building was insured.