New grade six block handed over to Barracks Road Primary
Acting board chairman of Barracks Road Primary School, Nashu Lelievre (left) and Dr Wayne Frederick (second left), president of Howard University, look on as Nathaniel Fogoe (third left) and Shanae Ennis, head boy and head girl, respectively, cut the ribbon to officially declare open the grade six classroom block at the Montego Bay- based school on Wednesday. (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

MONTEGO BAY, St James - A recently constructed four-classroom grade six block was officially handed over to Barracks Road Primary School, commonly called "Girls School" by members of the Montego Bay business community on Wednesday.

The new block, completed at a cost of $30 million and which boasts a resource room and two bathrooms, is the brainchild of former People's National Party (PNP) Senator Janet Madden who conceptualised the project from as far back as 2013 while she was chairman of the board of management for the institution.

The new block apart, the occasion could be indelibly etched in the memory of the stakeholders of the learning institution as they were pleasantly surprised with a cheque for US$10,000 by guest speaker at the handover ceremony and president of Howard University, Dr Wayne Fredericks and his wife, towards equipping a smart room at the school.

"This new space [block] is a space that will be excellent so my wife and I are happy to announce that we will provide US$10,000 towards the equipment of the smart room," Dr Fredericks declared during his delivery of the keynote address on Wednesday.

A section of the new grade six block (Photo: Philp Lemonte)

"Our ability to adapt to technology is ever changing; the pace of it is ever changing. Think of how long it took a million people to own an automobile. And think of how long it took a million people to have a phone in their home. But think of how long it took a million people to get on Snapchat — 10 minutes. So, our adoption of technology is occurring at a rapid pace, and the only way we can continue to be competitive in this world that we live in is to ensure that we provide young people with the types of spaces that they can be excellent in — and that's what you're doing here today," added the Trinidadian native.

According to the former board chairman's daughter, Isiaa Madden, an architect by profession who managed the project, the work to establish the new block was hatched from her mother's desire to create a resource centre to host a library, reading room, and additional classrooms to fulfil the need for additional space at the school.

After it was discovered that it would cost some $4.5 million to retrofit a container to house the customised library and reading room, assistance was sought to build two rooms instead.

"The design evolved into four classrooms, a resource centre, and bathroom facilities," the project manager revealed.

Permission was granted by the Ministry of Education, and the necessary building permits were obtained from the St James Municipal Corporation. The budget was prepared and it was now time to build," she stated.

The first of several donations for the project, she revealed, came from Doctor's Cave Bathing Club. Subsequently, other donations were garnered from Infinite Concrete Limited, Arc Manufacturers, Sharkfin Development Limited, Itel BPO, Restaurants of Jamaica Limited, Allen & Co Attorneys-at-Law, Maxie Department Store, Jewel Paradise Cove, Active Home Centre, Edgechem Jamaica Ltd, and Madden's Funeral Home.

The project eventually kicked off in 2020.

Minister of state in the Office of the Prime Minister (Western Region), Homer Davis lauded the partners who supported the project.

"Today [Wednesday] is a great day for not just the stakeholders of the Barracks Road Primary School but indeed for Jamaica's education sector," Davis said.

"We are here to witness the [handover] of four new classrooms, a research lab, and bathroom facilities. Partnerships like this one which resulted in the construction of a new school block is exactly what will move Jamaica's education sector to new levels of development. This project truly represents what can be achieved through private-public partnerships (PPP)," he added.

Regional director for the Ministry of Education and Youth's Region Four, Dr Michelle Pinnock also expressed her gratitude.

"We place on record our gratitude to all persons who have invested in education. Education is a team sport — look at the magnificent team right here. You are valued and valuable partners and we say thanks. Thanks for believing in the words of Benjamin Franklin that said, 'An investment in education pays the greatest interest.' And so we say thanks to all our teachers, our past students, our present students, our hard-working teachers and principals, and our dedicated community members for the many sacrifices you have made over the years," said Dr Pinnock.

Maxine Coates Brown, principal of Barracks Road Primary, was also thankful.

"Again, sponsors of the Barracks Road Primary School, thank you for your commitment and your support in ensuring that this vision has come to fruition. You have encouraged us to continue to work in carrying out our motto which speaks to only the best is good enough. Yet again, I say thank you and continue to support us," Coates Brown said.

President of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Oral Heaven was among members of the business community in attendance at the function, chaired by Senator Janice Allen.

BY HORACE HINES Observer West reporter

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