Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, is encouraging principals across the island to "get their schools in shape" so that they can reopen in the shortest possible time.
The Minister was speaking to JIS News today (Oct. 25) while on a tour of the Donald Quarrie High School in Harbour View, Kingston. He informed that 80 per cent of shelters were housed in schools and commended those principals, who were at their schools yesterday, assisting the shelter managers.
Minister Thwaites said preliminary reports from across the island reveal that while the damage to schools in some areas was significant, it was not devastating and could have been much worse.
He reported that the problem areas were in the parishes of St. Mary, Portland, St. Thomas and Kingston and St. Andrew. "The other parishes, it appears, have been spared," said Minister Thwaites.
While not able to give an early estimate of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the education sector, Minister Thwaites said: "we are going to have to see where we can scrimp and save and divert funds from programmes that are not immediately on stream and make sure that the children of Jamaica have the best possible environment".
The Minister has been visiting a number of schools in the Corporate Area on Thursday (October 25) to see firsthand, the damage done to school plants by Hurricane Sandy.
At the Donald Quarrie High School, he found that huge waves from the Caribbean Sea had crashed into the school building and ravaged the Industrial Arts and Visual Arts Block. The floor of the building as well as the bathrooms, were covered in debris, sand and silt. The newly constructed perimeter fencing was blown down and destroyed. All the classrooms were flooded.
The Education Minister advised that he would be seeking assistance from the Airports Authority of Jamaica, which has had good relations with the school over the years, and if necessary, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, to help with equipment and manpower to clean the school plant.
"The objective would be to do so by the weekend, which would allow limited reopening of Donald Quarrie High School, especially for exam takers this year. After that it is going to require us to assess the damage to the building and the restoration plans and funds that will be necessary," he said.
The Minster stated that overall, it is going to require a sea wall similar to that being built on the Palisadoes Road to protect the school over time.
Principal of Donald Quarrie High, Reford Hinds, said the school will try to reopen, in a limited way, on Monday, to facilitate grades 10 and 11 students.