In what seems to be increasing dissention among the main stakeholders regarding the relocation of two Catholic schools in St. David’s, opponents to the idea are becoming more adamant in their opposition to the Ministry of Education’s directives to proceed.
The St. David’s Catholic Secondary School (SDCSS) is in a deplorable physical condition and poses a danger to occupants. Consequently, it is rendered uninhabitable and the staff and students have to be relocated. The Ministry of Education has directed that the SDCSS be relocated to the St. Joseph’s RC School in Pomme Rose, and students of Pomme Rose be relocated to the Crochu Multi-Purpose Centre.
In the latest twist, the ministry called in representatives of the two schools involved to a meeting last week Friday. The group comprised the presidents of both Parent/Teacher Associations (PTA), the two principals and deputy principals, and the two managers; however the manager of the St. Joseph’s RC School arrived very late when the meeting was almost over.
According to Mr. Joseph Ragbersingh (Singh) – President of the St. Joseph’s PTA and Vice- President of the SDCSS PTA, the Permanent Secretary (PS) – Miss Ruth Rouse made opening remarks by stating that the meeting could last for only about 45 minutes because another group had to use the facility, following which the Chief Education Officer (CEO) – Mr. Elvis Morain also made introductory remarks. Singh stated that attendees interpreted it as gross disrespect and not right to put such a limit on the meeting and therefore the question was asked as to whether they were called to be told what the ministry had decided or to discuss the issue.
When the floor was eventually open for discussions, according to Singh, different people stated their opposition, giving reasons, and made suggestions as to the way forward. Some of these included the fact that when St. Joseph’s had problems they used the Fraser building in La Tante; and when St. Martin de Porres in Crochu had their problems they used the Crochu Multi-Purpose Centre.
They took into consideration the travel and transportation of the children, realizing that Pomme Rose comprised pre-school as well. The concern came up as to what the Pomme Rose School would be called being in Crochu and how the two primary schools could coexist so close and share the limited space for recreation and other purposes. They even mentioned that classes at St. Joseph’s are being disrupted so that SDCSS students would sit their CXC.
One of the suggestions put forward by the representative group is that temporary structures could be erected around the SDCSS like the car park, doctor’s yard, use of the Marian House, or even sections of the church as was done by former principal – Fr. William J. Dowling when the school was struggling for space in the early 70s. When the ministry challenged the suggestions by referring to the high cost involved, the group counteracted by stating that every move has a cost and the relocation idea put forward by the ministry could turn out to be more costly.
Every member of the representative group was united and on same page but they were incensed by the gestures of the PS that there is not much time left. Furthermore they were told that the ministry will proceed with plans as put forward earlier. The meeting ended with great dissatisfaction by the schools’ representatives.
An emergency meeting was called last Tuesday in Pomme Rose for all parents of students of the two schools. There were over 300 parents present, all very upset, and heated discussions took place as they voiced their bitter opposition to the ministry’s directives. As a final decision, the PTA was mandated to invite to a meeting next week Tuesday 2nd June, the Minister of Education, the Chief Education Officer, the Parliamentary Representative, Grenada Union of Teachers’ Representative and the Managers of the schools. The meeting is planned for 4.30 p.m. at the Pomme Rose RC School. Statement coming from the heated meeting is that if they are ignored very serious actions will be taken. Singh hinted that most members feel that the ministry is not sufficiently flexible and they hope that the best decision would be arrived at in the best interest of all concerned.
Informer subsequently learned that the use of the Crochu Multi Purpose Centre would incur a monthly rent of $6,000.00. Other challenges include that of health due to inadequate toilet facilities and yard space for the children to recreate.
Stakeholders of the both affected schools also worry about the social impact of the SDCSS being moved to an environment where there might be hostility towards them their having displaced the children of the area.
In addition, Pomme Rose parents are worried about the increased cost of sending their children to Crochu, some of whom are very young and will have to be accompanied by a parent, increasing the transportation cost.
Word is that many children, as many as 100, cannot even afford daily lunch; a need that is taken care of by the school. How then would their parents afford transportation costs?