It's school time again!

It's school time again!

Officials confident but concerns exist as new year begins

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 02, 2019

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With the 2019/20 academic year starting today, for thousands of students and school administrators, commuting and public transportation particularly in the Corporate Area are two major concerns.

The National Works Agency (NWA) says it has ramped up a number of activities in the Corporate Area and St Catherine in preparation for the start of the new school year.

It said that with some road projects still to be completed, the focus is on ensuring that critical corridors are available to its customers.

Among the activities are the placing of the first layer of asphalt on all roads as works continue along Constant Spring Road, Hagley Park Road, Barbican Road, Camp Road and Port Henderson Road.

Constant Spring Road from Manor Park to West King's House Road will be opened to the motoring public, communication manager at the NWA Stephen Shaw assured last week.

This will accommodate four lanes of traffic unlike the start of the last school year when only two lanes were available to the public, which at times had to be reduced to a single lane.

Traffic will also be allowed along the entire stretch of Hagley Park Road with the Three Miles area once again being open to vehicular traffic.

Additionally, as part of efforts to reduce delays, 12 critical locations have been installed with traffic lights, including Cassava Piece Road, Manning's Hill Road and Hillman Road, along Constant Spring Road.

Locations along Hagley Park Road, where traffic lights are to be installed, in time for today, include Keesing Avenue, Omara Road and Three Miles, while signals are also expected to be in operation at Germaine Road, Pepperwood and the Naggo Head/Newlands intersection in Portmore, St Catherine, as well as at Acadia Drive in Barbican, St Andrew.

At the same time, the Jamaica Urban Transit Company (JUTC) says it is “good to go”, according to Managing Director Paul Abrahams.

Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Friday, he said the system was being “fine-tuned”, but that about 400 units are to be rolled out. This is inclusive of five new compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered units buses.

The JUTC said the summer holidays were used to ramp up its maintenance and servicing programme, and that it is working to put buses that have been down back into operation.

However, the Opposition spokesman on transport, Michael Phillips, is concerned that there could be chaos in both the Kingston Metropolitan Region (KMTR) and on rural routes.

In a statement on Friday, he said Minister of Transport Robert Montague appears to have abandoned the responsibility to ensure that adequate plans are in place “for workers, the disabled, students and children, particularly those who will be going out to school for the first time”.

He said the situation at the JUTC is extremely concerning with indications of a serious inadequacy of seats to meet the back-to-school demand.

According to Phillips, the company only had 319 serviceable units as of Friday, although today's schedule requires 457 units.

Meanwhile, the education ministry has said it is expecting a smooth start to school operations today.

Minister with responsibility for education Karl Samuda said all was being done to meet the schools' demands.

According to the acting education minister, millions in funding have gone towards temporary and part-time teachers, 18 temporary deans of discipline, 1,093 cooks for primary schools, upgrading of school canteens and provision of equipment, and critical repairs.

Additionally, the ministry says it has provided $120 million for PATH students' literature books at the secondary level, $26 million for the insurance of PATH students and wards of the State, $380 million for the transportation programme for schools in eight parishes, and book vouchers for the neediest of students.

All books for the first term will be delivered by today, the ministry assured.


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