News

Portmore, Spanish Town schools remain closed

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, October 27, 2012    

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SEVERAL schools in Portmore and Spanish Town, both in St Catherine, remained closed yesterday despite an advisory from the Ministry of Education that the learning institutions reopen.

The institutions, which included St Jago, Spanish Town, Bridgeport, and Cumberland high schools, as well as Gregory Park Primary, decided to keep their doors closed as they were still without water and electricity after the passage of Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday.

"We have no water or light," said principal of Bridgeport High School Ashton Messam.

"Even if we could work without light in the first instance, we can't work without water. Also, there is some water in some classrooms. "

When the Jamaica Observer visited the school yesterday, a team of teachers was pruning damaged trees near the entrance of the premises. Over at Cumberland High, a team comprising teaching and ancillary staff was clearing the school yard of fallen trees and other debris. Vice-principal Michael Brydson said in addition to not having power restored, none of his 1,093 students turned up for school.

"Although we are picking up debris now, we could have had school... because the only damage is the (fallen) trees," he said.

"We tried to do what we could to secure some stuff before the storm and we had trimmed some of the trees at the beginning of the (hurricane) season," he added, giving reasons Cumberland fared so well.

For its part, Gregory Park Primary, which is the main shelter for the Gregory Park, Christian Gardens, Portmore Villas areas, still housed four of the nine persons who sought shelter there during Sandy's passage.

Schools across the island have been closed since Tuesday afternoon as a result of the threat of Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall about 2:00 pm Wednesday. In a press release issued Thursday evening, the ministry said educational institutions, except for those still being used as shelters and except for those in eastern Jamaica — the worst affected area — were to resume normal operations.

"All schools in the other parishes should resume normal operations (Friday) October 26, once it is safe to do so, and the schools are not being used as shelters," the release said.

Speaking to the number of teaching hours lost to the hurricane, the Bridgeport High head said his school had an edge since it convened its staff meetings and planning sessions for the academic year in August, well ahead of the usual September period.

President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association Clayton Hall said each school would determine on an individual basis how to spread out the required 190 days of school hours.

When he spoke with the Observer last night, he said the association didn't yet have the figures of how many schools reopened as it was still gathering information.

"What we do know, however, is that the schools have been implementing their assessment programmes and workers would have gone in today to prepare for the resumption of school generally on Monday.

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