Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd yesterday assured that ongoing extensive renovations at nine government schools on New Providence will be completed by the beginning of the school year.
The renovations are costing the government $9 million, he said.
Cabinet members and the media toured C.H. Reeves Junior High School, C.I. Gibson Senior High School, L.W. Young Junior High School and D.W. Davis Junior High School.
At L.W. Young, a block of classrooms full of desks, chairs and other supplies was exposed, as exterior walls are still being constructed.
At C.H. Reeves and C.I. Gibson, balconies have been ripped out and have not yet been replaced.
Floyd Wilmott, of Telco Enterprises Ltd., the contractor responsible for the repairs at C.H. Reeves, noted that in some places, slabs for those balconies were less than three inches thick, when they should have been much thicker from the beginning.
He said that though they had been contracted to repair only a section of the bathroom building’s roof, he decided to replace the entire roof, as it had extensive termite damage, despite having undergone some repairs last year.
“These are the most serious of deficiencies and disrepair that the school system now has experienced,” Lloyd said.
“It is not the only situation of disrepair, but these are the most serious, and it was a decision that we had to address the fundamental deficiencies.”
Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson yesterday thanked the government for its attention to the schools, but expressed concern that the repairs might not be completed by September.
“I must say that I also note that there is a great effort to have the renovations and the repairs done, but I am not optimistic that in three weeks’ time, when schools reopen, that these schools will be ready,” she said.
However, Lloyd said, “There’s no such thing as it not finishing on time. The contractors have assured us. The engineers have assured us. The project managers have assured us that these projects will be completed in time.
“Obviously as a system, we have contingencies in case that something [goes] awry, maybe a hurricane passes that delays us for a couple of days.
“Naturally the government has contingencies in those events, but we are fully anticipating that the schools will be ready.”
Lloyd said it is possible that more money will have to be spent.
“Unfortunately in times past, for any number of reasons, we were only able to do patchwork,” he said.
“We could not take that chance this year, because in many instances as you would have seen, we are talking about balconies and floors which have been seriously compromised and needed to be addressed, because, otherwise, they would pose serious safety challenges and health challenges to our students and teachers and administrators.”
He added, “Please understand that this particular segment of our summer repairs is $9 million, $8.9-plus million. As you would expect, when you get into the work, you will find some things that you didn’t expect.
“Contractors would have come across things that they were not able to anticipate before now, which of course would be also addressed because we need to have the schools ready, the repairs completed, the work done properly with quality materials in time for September 2, the opening of schools.”
Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister said the ministry is also coming up with an initiative to replace prefabricated school buildings.
“Those schools were built for a lifespan of 15 to 20 years, and they were built in 1975 and 1976,” he said.
“We have a lot of work to do with respect to those schools to ensure that our children are educated in the environment that you would want them to be educated in.”