Several updates to school infrastructure are coming soon, according to Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley.
“We need more schools,” Dr. Wheatley put it bluntly while debating a bill concerning money services revenue in the House of Assembly on May 11.
Dr. Wheatley — who is also minister of education, culture, youth affairs, fisheries and agriculture — said opening a junior high school on Tortola’s west end is a priority. Isabella Morris Primary School was destroyed by the 2017 hurricanes and remains in disrepair.
“We have money in this year’s budget to make that happen,” Dr. Wheatley said. “But instead of bringing it back as a primary school, because of course the schools down in the west usually have a smaller population, … we bring it back as a junior high school. We’ve been speaking about junior high schools for some time. We are going to make it happen.”
He said students who would have gone to Isabella Morris Primary will go to Leonora Delville Primary instead.
Dr. Wheatley also said a junior high school will be built for East End students, but the biggest hurdle at the moment is finding the right location to accommodate a new school big enough to serve the population as it grows.
During a previous HOA sitting, Dr. Wheatley also addressed issues with Ivan Dawson Primary School.
Opposition member Mitch Turnbull questioned why students were being taught at the Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church rather than the school, and when they might return.
Dr. Wheatley said on April 22 that the school has regularly dealt with flooding issues because of poor drainage.
“As a result of the moisture and humidity, the school has also suffered from heavy mould build-up,” he said.
Major repairs funded by Norwegian Cruise Line were completed by volunteers with All Hands and Hearts after the 2017 hurricanes, and the school reopened Jan. 31, 2019.
“Unfortunately, after reopening, the newly repaired roofs were still leaking in many areas, especially the roof of the auditorium building,” Dr. Wheatley said.
The school closed March 18, 2020 due to the pandemic, but unlike other schools Ivan Dawson didn’t reopen in September because the lengthy closure meant mould built up and made the building “uninhabitable,” according to the minister.
“It was then decided that the problem of leakage needed to be addressed once and for all, to be followed by a deep mould cleaning before the school could be reopened,” he said.
He added that money was allocated for the repairs and clean-up should have been completed that week.
The two contracts came to $140,347.04, he said.
Turning to the rebuilding of Jost Van Dyke Primary School, Dr. Wheatley said a contract was signed with AEC Consultant and Engineers Limited on Dec. 21, 2020 for the design, development, and construction management phase. He said a meeting was held Jan. 19 to review the preliminary design; the projected cost was $2.5 million, and the design was scaled back.
The Public Works Department sent a revised statement of requirement to the contractor in mid-February, and after a meeting on March 10 the company received approval to move forward with the design. The project design should be completed by June 30, he said.