(Eleuthera, Bahamas) – On Thursday, August 28th, 2014, Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald inspected schools across the Eleuthera District during a one day blitz tour, ahead of the opening of the new school year.
One of the primary schools visited was the beleaguered Gregory Town Primary School, which has been housed in a temporary rental location since the historic campus overlooking the bay was irrevocably damaged by hurricane Irene in 2011.
According to community leaders, a new school had been promised to the community, however, no official announcements have been made to date concerning the fate of the students and teachers. In a previous article published in February, The Eleutheran in print highlighted some of the challenges being experienced at the school including the fact that the current location had just one exit, a saftey hazard in the event of fire or other emergencies requiring a rapid evacuation. The dangerous situation was also brought directly to the attention of the MP for North Eleuthera, Hon. Theo Neilly as recently as June.
While at the small, one room, one entrance/exit, Jury Bar Society Hall building which currently houses the Gregory Town Primary School, accommodating forty plus students and staff; The Eleutheran spoke briefly with Minister Fitzgerald concerning the future of the school. He shared that land for a new school has been located south of Gregory Town in an area administered by the Bahamas Agricultural and Industrial Corporation (BAIC), which would create the need for busing. He added that a decision would have to be made on the new building, as the government had already decided that no further investment would be made at the old school location.
Near the end of Minister Fitzgerald’s inspection at Gregory Town, The Eleutheran once again pointed out the fact that the temporary location housing the staff and students had just one entrance/exit door, a very real safety hazard issue at the school which had been published previously.
Minister Fitzgerald with Administrators for North and Central Eleuthera discuss putting in a second door at the Gregory Town Primary School with President of the Jury Bar Society, Clarence Gibson. (L-R: Clarence Gibson, Administrator Jolton Johnson, Minister Jerome Fitzgerald, and Administrator Charles King)
Minister Fitzgerald acted immediately. Clarence Gibson, President of the Jury Bar Society responsible for the building was called to come out to the location, and a discussion followed, with Principal Minnis and District Superintendent Simmons-Johnson, who was also present for the inspection, to decide on the best location for a second exit door. A location at the rear of the building was chosen, and Mr. Gibson was given the go ahead to have the new door put in during the three remaining days before school opened. Superintendent Ismella Davis, Officer In Charge of the Eleuthera District, who was accompanying the Minister, commented that her team was planning a set of visits to schools throughout the island to facilitate safety drills, adding that the second exit was vital. The school was also promised a fire extinguisher by Senior Administrator for Central Eleuthera, Charles King.
On Saturday, August 30th, a visit to the school confirmed that work on the new exit door was near completion, in time for the anticipated September 1st opening of school.
Work being done on Saturday August 30th, 2014 to put a door on the rear of the hall housing the students of Gregory Town Primary. The other door in the photo is to a separate part of the building not accessible from the school room.