(picture Siem Dijkshoorn (planning bureau) and Commissioner Tearr at the opening of the Gov. de Graaffschool last Friday)
The public school of St. Eustatius under the name “Governor De Graaff School” has a history of over 100 years. Many scholars of today are deputies, jurist, administrators, lieutenant governors, teachers, nurses, social workers and professionals in all areas have attended this school.
This is for the fourth time in history that this school had to move. After 24 years of being housed on the Ruby G. Hassell Road, Fiscal, they are “thrown” out of their building.
The school was to become a foundation as of August 2012, start of the new school year. We are in December, and there is still no light at the end of the tunnel. The plans are probably stuck somewhere in the pipeline.
Going back in history more than six years ago, it was said by the then ruling government that the school should merge with Bethel Methodist School; two years ago it was said that all the students would be divided among the existing elementary schools as it does not have enough students (58). That did not take place because of previous Commissioner Hooker and based on the Compulsory Education Law and the previous Compulsory Education Officer, that a public school is needed for parents who do not wish to send their children to a religious school. So, the government decided then to take away four classrooms from the Governor De Graaff School and give them over to the Gwendoline van Putten School.
Thanks to our previous Councilman Clyde van Putten, and later in coalition of Hope as Commissioner of Education, that this school was not closed down but instead fought for a new school building to house these students. It is a pity that he is no longer a commissioner to finish his fight.
Looking at what was promised then and the outcome now is a big different. The school looks like “Little House on the Prairie,” with limited space for our children to play and put on elements. When space is not the problem, for enough space was given, the children could have even had their own little garden space within the fencing, if it was done correctly; also, with playing elements on the grounds etc.
Next they have limited classrooms space to facilitate all the school activities (remedial teachers, school breakfast and after school lunch, school nurse, music instrument storing, office supply storing, library etc.)
The school committee requested the “little white house” (working space of the builders) for extra spacing but, it is left outside the fencing. How can it facilitate the school outside the fencing is the big question?
The committee also got a temporary container from NUSTAR (for which they are very grateful) to help facilitate storing of all the school materials that are to be used at the new school. Only to find out that the government decided that it should be used to also store all the old materials of the school. My people, the old materials took up practically all the container space, as a result the new classrooms will be looking like a storage place. The school’s staff is on their well deserved vacation. I don’t see school starting on January 7, 2013, and I foresee classrooms with lots of boxes for a very long time. If the container was used for its purpose, things could have been stored and gradually stored in their rightful place.
Storing place – the school has no storing place for administration goods or any other items. They can’t hang/ put up any shelves on the walls, can’t even put up blackboards, only light items (drawings/ paintings.) Besides which, if the basement was built to facilitate/ house this purpose, the school would not be faced with this problem.
Floors – our school room floors look like the cheapest quality on the market. It is ugly and I am afraid that it is not durable, especially with our Caribbean way of mopping the floors where water will settle under the surface, which can become a future problem (goedkoop kan duurkoop zijn).
Water – the school has two water tanks (one to catch, the other smaller one for the overflow) underground which must serve as a cistern also outside the fencing. Now everyone knows that a school uses lots of water, when the electricity is off, how will the school get water? It was also said that the school does not need a cistern as MNO is busy with the waterlines. We all know that the waterline was to be opened since May 2012. Everyone knows that MNO left with lots of question marks for our people. When our government has professionals in place with very high salaries to control all these projects.
Septic tank – we know that we still have to continue building our traditional septic tanks as we do not have the facilities in place to dump septic. Now, the school has a very strange septic system set up outside the fencing. Let us hope it is set up to facilitate our situation.
Electricity: – the school has a full cooling system set up which is great (first school with this system). The only problem that I foresee is when GEBE goes off, which can be often, if this system breaks down who will fix/resetit? As the school does not have a generator as yet in place.
Let us hope now that our government will do a better job in putting a second fencing or enlarging the previous fencing to facilitate the needs of the school along with the parking space etc. As it is their responsibility.
As the saying goes “Wie betaald, bepaald,” everyone knows that slowly but surely we are heading in that direction. It is take it or leave it!
Wishing all the staff of the school a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous 2013, filled with patience, love, grace, peace and cooperation in making this school a place of joy to attend for each and every child.
Brenda van Putten, PLP president