ASPS demolition
Giant backhoes chipped away at the Althea Scatliffe Primary School on April 4. The school was shuttered suddenly last June after a structural analysis revealed dangerous problems, and it is now being demolished. (Photo: FREEMAN ROGERS)

The end of the Althea Scatliffe Primary School building in Road Town came all too soon for many graduates, who gathered on its lawn on April 1 to share their memories two days before demolition began.

“We are the Scatliffe! The mighty, mighty Scatliffe!” chanted the crowd of more than 50 people, most of whom dressed in bright pink for the ceremony emceed by ASPS graduate Kareem-Nelson Hull.

But the building was condemned because of structural issues, and the government is promising to build another in its place by the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

So on April 3, demolition got under way as planned. By the end of the day, windows had been removed and workers had filled dumpsters in the parking lot with trash from inside the facility.

On April 4, giant backhoes were jackhammering the outside walls of the building and piling up the concrete rubble.

Onlookers on the nearby sidewalk could see inside the former classrooms, where hundreds of students once learned in the territory’s largest primary school.

Sudden closure

The demolition — which continued through the week — was a long time in coming.

Following months of issues including a collapsed ceiling in 2021, the school closed suddenly last June because a structural analysis had raised concerns about its integrity.

As a result, nearly 400 students were displaced to other schools. They included about 375 ASPS students and 40 staff members, as well as 15 students with special needs enrolled with the Eslyn Henley Richez Learning Centre and six additional staff members for that facility, officials said at the time.

Last October, Communications and Works Minister Kye Rymer announced that further assessments had determined that the building should be demolished and rebuilt.

Cabinet approved the demolition in December, deciding that the financial secretary should assign a board of condemnation and approving $24,000 expenditure to purchase three 40-foot containers to store materials salvaged from the building.

Big plans

During the April 1 ceremony, Education, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie De Castro expressed regret about the demolition, but she also recounted her experience touring the building with an engineer last year.

“The engineer was able to express the direct concerns based on the unsafety of the building,” she said.

“We even went up on the roof. You should’ve seen Principal [Kesia] King and me trying to get up on the roof. We went up on the roof and we saw from top to bottom the reality that we just couldn’t do this anymore. Not in the current shape of the building.”

Since then, she said, her team has been working to develop a plan for the way forward.

“We’ve already met with Principal King and the entire team,” she said, adding, “We had a meeting. They gave me their vision — their plan on what they want to see rebuilt in this very spot — and we’re going to do everything to make sure that we give them what they ask for. Because they’re not asking for anything that they don’t need.”

Former students gather at Althea Scatliffe Primary School on April 1 to say good-bye before the demolition started the following Monday. (Photo: FACEBOOK/KYE RYMER)
2024 school year

More information, she said, will come soon.

“We expect that the Althea Scatliffe Primary School will be rebuilt for the 2024 school year,” she added.

Another speaker at the ceremony was Orlandette Crabbe, a 1989 ASPS graduate and former ASPS assistant principal who now serves as deputy chief education officer.

“The woman I am today is because of the time I spent in this building, both as a student and as an educator,” she said, adding, “As the deputy [chief education officer], I don’t feel the sadness that you feel, because I know that rebuilding this school is the ministry’s priority.”

The project, however, is one of many on a long list of expensive infrastructure works, many of which have faced long delays as the government has struggled to recover from Hurricane Irma without sufficient funding.