Several schools would not be re-opened in time for the start of the new school term tomorrow.
And it has nothing to do with tardiness in outstanding payments to contractors or delays in repair works but rather, severe structural damage incurred during the 6.9 magnitude earthquake which rocked TT on August 21, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said yesterday.
“Today (yesterday), I am not in a position to state that all of our schools will be opened. But I want to make the point that this is as a result mainly because of the earthquake,” he told reporters during a news conference at the ministry’s headquarters, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
Garcia said the schools that definitely would not be opened tomorrow include Curepe Anglican School, Curepe, Forest Reserve Anglican School, Pointe-a-Pierre, Santa Maria RC School, Moruga and Dayanand Vedic Primary School, Penal.
He said Curepe Anglican sustained damage to its main block while Dayanand Vedic’s sewer system also received structural damage.
“These are schools that will be closed and I can assure you and the general public that we in the Ministry of Education would be doing everything possible to ensure that in the shortest time possible our children will have the opportunity to attend school.”
He added: “I give this information so that the parents would know that certainly on Monday, those children would not be able to attend schools but we are hoping that things would be put in place as soon as possible so that our children and our teachers could return to normal school life.”
Garcia could not say what the cost of repair works to the affected schools would cost as assessments were still being carried out..
“What has happened, all of us are aware that we had a very severe earthquake, 6.9 it was measured on the Richter scale and as a result of that, we had asked our school supervisors initially to visit all of the primary and secondary schools in Trinidad.”
Garcia said some 66 schools have been flagged because they had suffered varying degrees of damage.
The minister said two days after the earthquake, the ministry, under the guidance of the chief Education officer, contacted the Ministry of Works so that their personnel could visit the schools and give a more comprehensive report on the extent of damage.
“Structural engineers have visited in excess of 50 of the schools and four schools have since been flagged as not being able to reopen on Monday because, according to the structural engineers, those schools posed a danger to those who occupy the premises. We had no alternative but to go by the advice of the structural engineers.”
Garcia said on Thursday, he took a report to Cabinet detailing the damage assessed by the structural engineers.
“Cabinet was very happy to note that we were on board and that everything is being done to ensure that our children are adequately housed.”
Garcia said although St Paul’s Anglican School was not flagged by the structural engineers, the City Engineer of the San Fernando Corporation paid a visit to the school and ordered that it be closed.
Other schools that would remain closed tomorrow are St Phillips Government Primary School and La Romaine Secondary.
Regarding St Phillips Government, Garcia said: “It was scheduled to occupy the school that once housed the Belmont Boys RC School because they are moving into their new school and we are working to ensure that that school would be in state of readiness to accept the students from the St Phillips Government Primary School.”
Garcia said, however, “it was found that there were some cracks but the school is in state of readiness to accept the students.
“But, we have asked the school community not to go to work on Monday, perhaps Tuesday when they get a better assessment.”
Garcia said electrical work has not been completed at La Romain Secondary.
“That delay is not because of the earthquake. That school must have electricity fittings so that there can be no recurrence of the fire in May.
“We are reasonably certain the school will not open its doors on Monday but the closure would not be for more than one week.”
Garcia also said there was a likelihood that classes at schools with sewer defects in central Trinidad with could be affected in the next few weeks.
“There is a possibility of other schools, particularly in central Trinidad that might suffer some damages where sewer is concerned because of movement of the earth. We have been advised that we must be on the lookout for similar actions with respect to the sewer.”