$185-million classroom block for Exchange All-Age

OCHO RIOS, St Ann — A new classroom block is to be constructed at Exchange All-Age in St Ann within the next 10 months following Wednesday’s ground-breaking for the project.

The $185-million initiative is to be spearheaded by the National Education Trust (NET) and is expected to bring an end to the two-shift system at the school.

Speaking at Wednesday’s ground-breaking ceremony, Education Minister Fayval Williams said the work highlights the urgent need for upgrades in schools islandwide.

“Infrastructural development is major. You will recall that the prime minister commissioned a major study of the education sector to inform us [of] what are some of those very important changes that we need to make. A big part of that study that was commissioned is telling us infrastructure development at our schools will be a game-changer, not just for students but teachers as well, to ensure that they are operating in environments that are comfortable,” she said.

“This is a significant occasion for the school and surrounding communities and we are thrilled to take this important step towards providing our teachers with an improved teaching and learning environment, as part of the Government’s primary and a secondary infrastructure programme,” Williams added.

According to the minister, the project will also be coupled with renovations to other areas of the institution.

“With regards to this particular engagement here, the construction of six new classrooms, the upgrade of current bathrooms and kitchen facility; six bathrooms, kitchen expansion space and a park for children and persons with disability. So in addition to the construction on the building there will be the following external works: construction and service frames, installation of gas lines to supply the kitchen, and additional outdoor seating,” she noted.

She is hoping the project will be completed for the 2024/2025 academic year.

“It is not just a promise, it’s a commitment, and it’s backed by the funding annually, this year [NET] has a budget to continue to do the infrastructure works in our schools and so lots of other schools will begin to see the works in their schools,” Williams assured.

Member of Parliament for North East St Ann Marsha Smith said the project marks a new chapter in the life of the school.

“Every time I come to Exchange All-Age School, one of the first things [Principal Ricardo] Moncrieff reminds me about is the expansion and the improvement in the infrastructure of the school. Because he sees it and it has been integral to ensuring that the students at Exchange All-Age School get quality education. And so we are here today to launch the beginning of a new chapter in the history of the school,” the MP declared.

She noted that improved access for disabled students is also crucial to providing education to all of the students at the institution.

Board chairman of Exchange All-Age Gregory Chung said the occasion was “a momentous one that marks the next phase of a modern school that serves an overwhelming need for the Exchange community”.

“This event is more than just the symbolic breaking of the soil. It symbolises our unwavering commitment to the future of education, and the growth of the Exchange community,” he said.