Students from Jost Van Dyke Primary School began attending class on Tortola last week as the school building on their home island is apparently no longer fit for education.

After the JVDPS principal ordered children to stay home on Oct. 30 following three days of “unprecedented rains,” parents and school staff agreed on Nov. 2 to relocate students to Leonora Delville Primary School on Tortola by Nov. 7, according to a Monday press release from the Ministry of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports.

“Arrangements were immediately made with New Horizon Ferry Services as well as land transportation to and from the school [and] back to the ferry,” acting Chief Education Officer Orlandette Crabbe said in the release. “On Monday, Nov. 6, in preparation for the students’ arrival on Tuesday, Nov. 7, the teachers from Jost Van Dyke familiarised themselves, as they will be co-teaching for the remainder of the term at the Leonora Delville Primary School.”

Though the students were nearing the end of their first day on Tortola on Nov. 7, neither the ministry nor JVDPS would verify the relocation plan to the Beacon last week.

Ministry release

According to the ministry’s Monday statement, which was released six days after JVDPS students began commuting to Tortola, the principals of both primary schools “welcomed the opportunity” of the arrangement while a new school under construction on JVD is “nearing” completion.

Pre-kindergarten students, meanwhile, were to “occupy a room” in the Albert Chinnery Administration Complex on JVD starting on Monday of this week, according to the release.

The statement also noted that the Recovery and Development Agency — which is overseeing the construction of the new school — had assured the ministry that the project would be completed Dec. 15 following a “formal correspondence” from the contractor.

According to an official at the ministry who declined to provide his name for the record, the move-in date is expected to be sometime in mid-January after the building is prepared for education following its completion.

New school

In August 2022, government signed a $4.3 million contract with Quality Construction Limited for the construction of the multi-purpose facility that will serve as the new JVD school.

Already by that time, the project had been long delayed.

JVD’s existing primary school sustained major damage in Hurricane Irma in 2017, and since then mould and other issues frequently forced students to attend class in temporary facilities.

When the contract was signed for the new facility, officials said the completion target was September of this year.

Further delays

In a Nov. 1 statement, the ministry explained the most recent delays.

“The ministry had hoped that the new school would have been ready for our teachers and students at the beginning of the school year in September but was notified of delays to the project in July 2023, which extended the end date to Oct. 15, 2023,” the statement noted.

That Oct. 15 target became Dec. 15 after the ministry received a report from the RDA on Oct. 25, the ministry added.

“The report stated that as a result of material delay, primarily due to protracted lead times in procurement and logistical challenges experienced by the contractor, the new move-in date is now set to January 2024,” the statement noted.

‘Urgent priority’

Despite the pushed deadlines, government maintained that construction is a pressing matter.

“For this reason, the construction of the new school remains an urgent priority and is currently in the final stages of completion,” the ministry stated.