The Ministry of Education has signed a $660 million contract with HDB Construction for the building of the Cedar Grove High School at Gregory Park, in Portmore, St. Catherine.
The institution is the first to be built under the National Education Trust (NET) on behalf of the Ministry, and the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP), and is a joint initiative involving the New Testament Church of God Jamaica/Cayman Islands, which has leased the land. Funding support is being provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Speaking at the signing ceremony, held at the Ministry’s Heroes Circle headquarters in Kingston, on April 26, Acting Permanent Secretary, Grace McLean, pointed out that there is tremendous shortage of spaces at the secondary school level, numbering more than 100,000.
“We are of the opinion that if we start with one, and move on to another, we will be able to fulfill that need. We are very happy that despite the shortages, we have been able to use creative strategies and systems to ensure that our children can continue to get their secondary level education until we can make the situation ideal for them,” she said.
The Permanent Secretary lauded the initiative taken by the church to collaborate with the Ministry. “What is most important on this project is to ensure that we complete it on time and within budget, and that our partners can be fully satisfied with this project,” she added.
Member of Parliament for East Central St. Catherine, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, welcomed the construction of the school, noting that Portmore has the distinction of having the highest concentration of educated persons in the island, particularly at the tertiary level.
“Therefore, the addition of this school will continue that tradition. We hope that we will attract the best and brightest minds and add value to them, so that they can contribute to the development of the country,” he said.
Director of the ESTP, Jean Hastings, explained that the school was among those identified under the transformation programme to increase capacity at the secondary level. She noted that the programme is being carried out as a result of the recommendations of the Task Force Report on Education Reform of 2004.
“About $5 billion was provided previously by the Government to commence the build-out of schools, at both the secondary and primary levels.
Miss Hastings pointed out that St. Catherine is one of the areas where rapid growth is being seen, and where the demand for secondary spaces is very high. “So, this is a welcome start in improving the capacity of spaces at the secondary level, particularly for that parish,” she said.
The school, which will be sited on the Gregory Park main road, next to the Cedar Grove community, will accommodate 1,200 students and 80 staff members, with 20 classrooms; 10 technical workshops; three science labs; two computer labs; administration, washroom and canteen facilities; library; book rental room; tuck shop; store rooms; kitchen; multi-purpose dining area; ancillary staff area; and ramp access for the disabled.
Construction is to begin in another week and be completed within 18 months.
By Alphea Saunders, JIS Reporter