TTUTA on Scarborough Sec relocation: It's a political football
FOR the second straight term this academic year, Scarborough Secondary School will not reopen on time.
The Division of Education, Research and Technology announced on Saturday that the school will remain closed until January 9 to facilitate repairs. All schools are scheduled to reopen on January 3.
Last September, the school had to remain closed because of incomplete works.
On Saturday the division said the delay in reopening is due to ongoing infrastructural works to restore the structural integrity of the school’s auditorium. Following this phase of the project, minor works will continue on afternoons and weekends until the project’s completion.
The division said a three-hour long meeting was held on Friday, following a site visit, and "a collective decision was made by all stakeholders present that the contractor should be granted an additional week to forge ahead with this extremely technical project, before the resumption of face-to-face classes for forms one to five."
The division said Secretary of Education Zorisha Hackett led the discussion on the ongoing challenges at the 62-year-old institution. It said all stakeholders contributed to solutions that will limit learning loss during this week off.
A follow-up meeting was scheduled for January 3, at 10am at the Shaw Park Complex, to further discuss the school’s relocation. This meeting will be jointly hosted by Chief Secretary Farley Augustine, Hackett and all stakeholders relevant to this project.
The division said it continues to place the safety and comfort of all staff and students first, while renewing its commitment to maintaining this current facility until a new school is delivered.
In an interview to Newsday on Sunday, TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts said it was "extremely unfortunate" that the school is back in this situation.
"The division needs to avoid this, so we don't need to have these emergency meetings – work needs to start on time.
"Major infrastructure works, I thought you would have waited July-August – you don't go into a three-week vacation and don't do anything in the first week," Roberts said.
He noted that there are other safety hazards at the school that should have been addressed by now.
"The division is dragging its feet...There is no functioning fire extinguisher at the school – no fire detection system...We wrote to OSH in June last year and OSH gave them a deadline. They started some of the work so OSH gave them an extension."
He called for a contingency plan in case the work at the auditorium is not completed by January 9.
"What happens to the children then? What happens to the teachers that need to complete their curriculum? We are adding to their frustration."
During this week off, the division advised students to check the school’s website and their e-mails for correspondence from their respective teachers.
Scarborough Secondary has been in a significant state of disrepair for some time. Coastal erosion affecting the foundation of the school has made relocation necessary.
On October 24, 2019, a small group of Scarborough Secondary sixth-form students protested at the school's entrance, lamenting the environment they were forced to learn in.
A few days later, then education secretary Kelvin Charles acknowledged the concerns of the students and revealed plans for a new school to be built at a different location. He said a parcel of land had been identified but declined to give its location.
In June 2020, then finance secretary Joel Jack said “$50 million is what will be expended in this fiscal year, towards the construction of the new Scarborough Secondary School, not the old school. The size of the project would straddle more than one fiscal year." The new school was expected to cost approximately $250 million.
The project remains in limbo and Roberts expressed scepticism about Tuesday's meeting.
"The new school has always been a political football. The current admin is putting out no information. The last administration only put out information close to election time."
He said there were reports that a location in Bacolet was identified by the previous administration but was deemed infeasible.
He said the issue needs to be on the front burner. "What are the steps being taken to get this new school?"
He said the alumni wrote to the THA and was told it was discussed at Executive Council, but he said this was not sufficient.
"We need to know when realistically we are getting this new school.
"What if another area of the school something drastic happens?"
He stressed, "It is not entirely safe as is, but teachers have been trying their best. TTUTA has been trying their best to work (with the THA). If we shut down the school, everybody suffers.
"I'm very disappointed the fire extinguisher issue is not sorted out as yet. There are some low-hanging things the division can achieve."
Other stakeholders at last Friday's meeting included: Administrator Dianne Baker-Henry; acting School Supervisor III Sherra Carrington-James; Scarborough Secondary Principal Thecla Stephen; Scarborough Secondary staff representative Omari Martin; Scarborough Secondary Alumni Association president Kevon McKenna; Scarborough Secondary PTA president and other executive members; OSH representatives; School Safety Officers; staff of the division's Project Implementation Unit; and the contractor and engineers on the project.
Classes are scheduled to resume for all sixth form students and teachers on January 3, at the UWI Open Campus, Signal Hill.
"TTUTA on Scarborough Sec relocation: It’s a political football"