Principal fears for students’ safety
Principal of the Thompson Town Primary School in Clarendon, Annette Thomas, is fearful that the school building will soon slip from under the feet of the staff and the 340 students there.
Thomas recently showed our news team a steep slope closing in on the rear of the 88-year-old institution, due to the rapidly eroding soil supporting the building. With heavy rains now pounding the area, Thomas fears that the school will soon end up at the bottom of the hill which it sits atop.
"That's how far the soil was, but, because of the erosion, it just keeps washing away and the slope is coming closer and closer to the building," Thomas said, pointing to nearly two feet of exposed foundation. "We are worried about the building because each time it rains, the soil seems to be washing away more and more."
Thomas also fears for the safety of the students, who often play on the steep slope despite the multiple 'out of bounds' signs placed there.
Seemingly validating the principal's concerns, our news team observed a line of students making the dangerous trek along the rough slope, which was covered in bushes and other debris. Others were also seen playing along the edge of the slope.
"This sharp drop here is dangerous for the children. We have to keep monitoring them when they are out here. We put up the signs saying, 'Out of bounds' but children will be children," Thomas said.
She theorises that erecting a wall directly behind the school to create a border between the building and the slope will solve their problems, as it will prevent the soil from further slipping down the hill and create a physical boundary for the children. The project is estimated to cost some $3m, she said.
Thomas, who became principal in 2014, said she and others before her have written to the Ministry of Education (MOE) about the issue, but the ministry has been slow to act. "The last response I got is that they would try to fit us in this school year," she said.
Eager to have the issue corrected, Thomas said she has sought funds through their Parent-Teacher Association, the member of parliament Richard Azan, and numerous block drives. However, what they got so far is not enough to initiate the project.
The MOE's director of communications, Byron Buckley, said when it comes to fencing schools and erecting walls, the ministry has to prioritise because of limited resources. However, he admitted the situation facing Thompson Town sounds critical and promised to look into the matter.