When the bell rings September 1 for the start of 2008/09 school year, all schools in Grand Bahama are expected to be ready for the academic year.

District Superintendents Mrs. Sandra Edgecombe and Mr. Hezekiah Dean confirmed last week (August 13) that schools are nearing the state of readiness.

Regarding the new Freeport Junior High School situated adjacent to the St. Georges High School, Mr. Dean said he visited the site last Wednesday and that construction of the physical plant itself was basically completed.

He confirmed that the contractor was in the cleaning up process which will be followed by the landscaping of the entire premises. Construction of the 46,683 square foot facility began last July.

According to Mr. Dean, the two storey complex will house an administrative section and seventeen classrooms. He also confirmed that this is only the first phase of what will be known as the Freeport Junior High School as construction of additional classrooms at the site is forth coming.

“Right now we have an administrative block and seventeen classroom and they are all regular classrooms. We do not have any specialist classrooms yet and so the next phase would most likely involve construction of some twenty-four to thirty classrooms, homerooms and specialists rooms,” he explained.

He also advised that the new Junior High School is just one of two proposed schools for Grand Bahama and that he would expect the other to come on stream in another year or two.

Mr. Dean also confirmed that the new school already has an administrative team in place, headed by the principal Ms. Yvonne Ward. He said he was pleased to note that all furnishings for the classrooms were currently on Grand Bahama and that he was only now awaiting the arrival of office furniture.

Continuing, he said that: “It is hoped that we would start the school off in this Phase I with the seventh graders only and we are talking about Seventh Graders who would normally have gone to St. Georges High School.”

He explained that the main idea of having the Junior High School is to eventually be able to separate the Junior High School students from the Senior High School students.

“Personally, I think it is an excellent idea because what it will do in the long run is alleviate some of the social, even moral problems of some of the things we experience now in our society,” he said.

“I think it is better to have that separation so that is a move in the right direction. The seventh graders would come this year, hopefully, we would have been 280 students. But already with just a feeder list from the primary schools that would normally have fed St. Georges, they have given us about 306 students,” he informed.

With regards to the three high schools in his district, Mr. Dean said St. Georges, Jack Hayward and Eight Mile Rock were all undergoing minor repairs, which includes roof work, painting, plumbing and electrical work. He said similar work should be completed at the Bimini All Age School, Grand Cay and Sweetings Cay in time for the new school year.

Also Mr. Dean confirmed that all three Government run high schools on Grand Bahama will have totally new administration for the 2008/09 academic year. Very little of the old will remain, he said.

In case of St. Georges High, the new team will be headed by Mr. Marvin Rolle, Principal. Dr. Paula Mortimer will head the new team at the Sir Jack Hayward High School, and Mr. Benjamin Stubbs who previously headed the Sir Jack Hayward High School will take the helm at Eight Mile Rock High School.

“The administrative teams are basically new to the school in all cases. I am really looking forward to an exciting or interesting year, which ever one fits. It will be interesting to see what these new teams would do,” he said, pointing out that in all cases the new teams have been doing their planning for weeks now.

“I think everybody is excited and we are hoping that good things will come,” he said.

Mr. Dean also informed that unless there are some surprised no-shows, they should not have much of a problem with teacher shortages.

District Superintendent for Primary Schools, Mrs. Sandra Edgecombe confirmed that much preparation is underway for the start of the new school year.

She confirmed that she has visited and continues to visit all twelve primary schools in the district to make sure schools are ready to accept children come September 1.

According to Mrs. Edgecombe they have contractors at all schools repairing bathrooms, ceiling fans, electrical outlets and painting.

She likewise informed that no contractor will be paid unless the work is done to the satisfaction of herself, the school principal and an official from the Ministry of Works.

Mrs. Edgecombe noted that the Bartlett Hill Primary School continues to be a major concern, and that while they will be doing some sprucing up, there is the need to construct a new facility to replace that school.

“So what we are doing for Bartlett Hill is patching the roof so that the rains don’t disrupt school, fixing the doors and restoring the basic plumbing.

“But, we are trying to make it as comfortable and I trust that teachers understand that they need a new school and so certainly they can’t go in and expect the same look that they might find in another school,” she said.

Mrs. Edgecombe was also pleased with the hiring of some twenty-five new security guards for schools here on Grand Bahama, saying it allows her to sleep better knowing most shifts will be covered and the necessary training for new persons has been done.