Regional

New Mandeville high school to be sited at Mount St Joseph

Monday, April 07, 2014    

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Negotiations are well advanced for a publicly run high school component to be established at Roman Catholic-run Mount St Joseph Preparatory School on Manchester Road in this south central town.

Marcia Tai Chun, who is representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mandeville in the discussions, told Observer Central by telephone on Saturday that while there was considerable caution, discussions were going well.

"We are in the final stages of getting things signed off but we are trying to be very careful...," she said.

While declining to "speak in any detail", Tai Chun strenuously emphasised that though there is a "commitment", no "signing off" has as yet taken place for what she is insisting should be a "centre of excellence" with great emphasis on "e-learning".

Word of plans for a high school on the Mount St Joseph Preparatory property came as far back as July of last year when Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites mentioned plans for implementation this year. Thwaites' comments at that time came in the context of his announcement that the then privately-run Belair would become a publicly funded high school. That became reality last September.

And at a recent function to honour immediate past principal of Mandeville Primary and Junior High School Byron Farquharson, Thwaites, while not referring to Mount St Joseph by name, was reported by JIS News as saying the new high school will be opened later this year.

When contacted by Observer Central, the minister confirmed he was referring to Mount St Joseph. He said he would give details during the upcoming Budget debate in Parliament.

Thwaites, who has been emphasising the need for priority to be given to technical/vocational training alongside academics in schools, said as much in reference to the proposed new high school, according to JIS.

"...We (Ministry of Education) will enable one high school in Mandeville to take on stronger technical and vocational capacities, as the modern workforce demands that blend of academic subjects, and technical and vocational competencies," Thwaites was quoted by JIS as saying.

On Saturday, Tai Chun made clear that the proposed high school would not in any way interfere with the existing preparatory school but would be accommodated alongside it.

She said existing buildings not being used by the prep school would be made available and there was "quite a bit of land" available for construction.

Tai Chun said the Roman Catholic Diocese was interested in helping to create a "centre of excellence with an e-learning element from day one".

She said that while it was understood that "it need not be an exact replica", Campion College in Kingston as a "centre of excellence" in the education system had been put to the Ministry of Education as a "model" to be followed.

Crucially, said Tai Chun, her team wanted a situation where there would be no more than 30 students "per class" in line with the centre of excellence concept.

Tai Chun told Observer Central that Mount St Joseph Preparatory had "recovered completely" from a fire which did serious damage two years ago. She said improved and expanded facilities had resulted from the reconstruction project.

— Garfield Myers

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