One teacher to three grades... Community fear closure of underpopulated school

May 19, 2016
Rudolph Brown/Photographer The Mount Vernon Primary School in St. Thomas.
Rudolph Brown/Photographer A teacher at Mount Vernon Primary School in St. Thomas sits with her grades 3-6 students. They were the only ones to show for school on the day that THE STAR visited the community.

Community fears closure of underpopulated school

Some community members of Mount Vernon are fearful that years of rumours about the possible closure of the only Primary School in their area may be true because of a consistent decline in the student population.

Mount Vernon Primary School serves the surrounding communities of Albion Mountain, Moffat, and Jones Pen.

"When me did go there as a child, over 100 students go to the school, but now the population is less than 30," Aldane Anderson, 29, told THE STAR.

The school, which is nestled in deep rural St Thomas, has seen a steady decline in its population over the years.

On a recent visit to Mount Vernon, THE STAR found a deserted community with multiple abandoned homes in the area.

Members of the community blamed the state of the rugged roads as the major reason persons have left the community in droves.

According to Alicia Bloomfied, persons living in the area choose to send their children to schools outside of the community.

"Some people nuh want their pickney to walk so far to go Mount Vernon, so them send them go Trinityville," she said.

When THE STAR arrived at the school, the three teachers and principal, Pauline Buchanan-Williamson, refused to speak with our news team, but an observation of the school's classrooms showed only six children present.

According to a community member who is closely associated with the school, the current population of the schools stands at 20 students.

The community member said the three teachers serve the small population as one teacher has been assigned to three grades.

The handful of students who attend the school has been an issue for years according to Bloomfield.

"More than five years we hear say the school a go lock because not enough kids are there. Sometimes a 15 [students] deh the school fi the year," she said.

Some residents said though they are worried about the possible closure of the school, they are hopeful that things will turn around for the school.

"Me want more children to attend the school because me nuh want see the school shut down because my kids woulda have to walk way down to Trinityville weh deh two hours away," said Nickeisha Curtis.

In 2011, the Ministry of Education listed Mount Vernon as one of six schools in the lowest tier of the 2011 Grade Four Literacy Test.

Byron Buckley, the director of corporate communication at the Ministry of Education, told THE STAR that the ministry has "no list of schools to be closed", an indication that the doors of Mount Vernon Primary School may remain open for some time.

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