Principal of GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, Edward Shakes, says the school will embark on a $23 million project this summer, to modernise and restore some of its facilities, which have fallen into disrepair.
According to Mr. Shakes, the project will involve the refurbishing of the institution’s dormitory, which currently houses some 300 students.
“We have just put that out to tender, and it is projected that this will cost some $5 million,” he told journalists Friday (June 11), during a tour of the facility by Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness.
Vice Principal of Academics at the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, Maurice Westney (right), leads Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness (second left) on an inspection of the worn Mondo track during the Minister’s visit to the College Friday (June 11). Also pictured from left are: Chairman of the school board, Silvera Castro and Principal Edward Shakes.
Mr. Holness, who was visiting the school for the first time in his capacity as Minister of Education, was invited by the administration to review aspects of its development plan.
The project will also see a general facelift of some areas of the college, including painting and replacing outdated furniture and fixtures, which have been in place for over 30 years.
Mr. Shakes said the school is seeking additional funding to repair and replace other aspects of its facility, including its Olympic-size swimming pool, which has been out of use for years.
“The plan for upgrading (the pool) is really built around our four-year swimming programme, which has been recently developed,” he informed.
Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness (left and Principal of the GC Foster College of Physical Education and Sports, Edward Shakes, (right), view the college’s Olympic-size pool which has been out of use for a number years.
“The programme has been developed for our physical education teachers to prepare them to teach swimming, and to get them to administer swimming events and to get them to a state where they can actually teach polo,” he said. The existing pool needs a number of changes in order to facilitate the programme.
“The reality is, it is too deep and it holds nearly a million gallons of water, just to maintain that alone would cost in the region of $1 million per month. The truth is there is no way the college can afford such a facility,” he explained.
He said the school is looking to modify the pool, in order to create a 25-metre pool at an appropriate depth. He projected that this part of the project will be completed by next March.
“We are at the stage where we are developing the designs for that, and then to identify the funding,” he stated.
Mr. Shakes also noted that the school has been in talks with the Swimming Association of Jamaica, and hopes to also establish the Swim Jamaica Project, which is a basic swimming programme offered to members of the community.
He said that the institution is seeking assistance to fund the replacement of its 11-year-old Mondo track, which is being used extensively.
“Usually those tracks have a life of seven to eight years, so it is really (past) its time and is in need of a replacement. The board and the college’s management are currently exploring ways of securing the funding for replacement, which will cost about $50 million,” he said.
He admitted that the institution earns a “small” income from the use of the track by other organisations, but in order to maintain it, he said the rates will have to be reviewed, to ensure that at the end of its life the College can replace it.
In regards to student enrolment, the principal said the school is contemplating a reduction in the number of students living on campus as of September, in order to make the living conditions more comfortable.
He however noted that the school is hoping to expand student enrollment and, in order to facilitate this, classes will be offered on evenings and weekends, as well.
“We are seeking to move away from having classes between just eight (am) and four (pm), as well as partnering with other institutions. For example, we are contemplating offering one of our programmes in Montego Bay, by partnering with another tertiary institution there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness told JIS News that while he was impressed with the well built design and structure of the institution, he believed the facilities were underutilised.
“I think it can do far more than it is doing now but, of course, it needs the intervention and direction of the government as it relates to sports, education and education in sports,” he remarked.
He further noted that a new infusion of investment needed to be made into the college, and this might involve seeking investors from the Diaspora, and the wider Caribbean.
“There is a market for the services that this college offers. The local market may not be able to fully utiltise the capacity of this plant, and so I think that we may have to look overseas, particularly within the Caribbean region and indeed among the Diaspora,” he said.