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Glen Stuart Primary finding a way despite closure of school

Monday, September 25, 2017

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Maggotty, St Elizabeth — It's tough. However, the Glen Stuart Primary School fraternity is fighting its way through following last week's closure of the school doors by health authorities because of a sewage problem.

When the Jamaica Observer Central visited on Friday, an alternative arrangement was already in place for more than 100 children in the grade six group preparing for high school entrance exams next year.

They were attending classes at the Glen Stuart United Church and adjoining Glen Stewart Special Education Department, located across the road from the stricken Glen Stuart Primary and the adjacent Maggotty High School.

Principal of Glen Stuart Primary Omar Mongal said that starting today (Monday), other students are to be accommodated for classes at a range of nearby schools and churcheswhich have offered classroom space.

Those locations include Carisbrook Primary School, Carisbrook Infant School, Retirement Primary School, Retirement United Church Hall, Glen Bromfield Centre in Barton, Shiloah Apostolic Church in Newton, Maggotty SDA Church, Holy Spirit Catholic Centre in Maggotty.

Mongal said that the Ministry of Education was contemplating special bussing arrangements.

Glen Stuart Primary, routinely considered among the top primary schools in St Elizabeth, accommodates 753 students and 30 teachers. Mongal said students come from as far away as Comfort Hall and Mile Gully in Manchester, communities in southern Trelawny and southern St James, and from all over northern and central St Elizabeth.

A sensitisation session aimed at parents, guardians and the wider community is to be held at the Apple Valley Farm attraction in Maggotty this morning.

“We are doing all we can to keep everyone aware of what is happening pending the reopening of school, whenever that may be,” said Mongal.

Nadine Leachman of the Ministry of Education's Region Five, which includes St Elizabeth and Manchester, could give no timeline on reopening, noting that experts would first have to determine the best way to correct the sewage problems.

“We just don't know yet,” she said. “We have to await an engineer's report,” she added.

As explained by Mongal, Glen Stuart Primary has had issues with leaking sewage for many years, largely because of a very high water table, as it is just across the road from the Maggotty River which feeds into the Black River.

“The Ministry of Education has been working very hard on the problem for years, but we haven't had a permanent solution,” Mongal said.

“They have gone through the entire plumbing system, they have looked at the disposal system, they have drawn waste from pits and septic tanks, tried and built up evaporative system…” he added. But to date nothing has worked for very long.

The situation came to a head in the new school term, with it worsening. The Public Health authorities finally stepped in last Monday afternoon to order the school closed.

Mongal believes overburdened facilities may be part of the problem. The old building, which was first opened as a church-run school in the 1870s, was destroyed by fire in 1980. Modern facilities built in 1981 were intended to accommodate 450 students.

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