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May 28, 2018

The End of Evangelical Holiness Academy in Cayo

A private school in the west is closing its doors due to a number of factors after twenty years of providing education to students of Santa Familia and surrounding communities.  The abrupt notice was sent to the school’s administration in early May. At least sixty students are being affected and will have to find another primary school to continue their education; three teachers will also be displaced. Parents recently organized a small protest looking for answers. The principal spoke to News Five’s Duane Moody about the developing situation.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The Evangelical Holiness Academy is closing its doors and won’t reopen next school year. It’s a decision taken by the school management that is not sitting well with parents, who last week staged a mini protest at the school compound in Santa Familia Village in the Cayo District. Principal Nuria Aguirre says that on May third she received an email from the school’s administrator, who is based in the U.S., with the surprise news that the private school was shutting down.

 

Nuria Aguirre

Nuria Aguirre, Principal, Evangelical Holiness Academy 

“When I started this school, we only had approximately fifteen students. Now it has grown a lot, has build up very fast in two years. So I know it is not because it is not functioning. It is just that the management thought that it was best for them to shut down the school for other reasons. We did not see this coming; well myself did not see this coming. The school did not have a big population and it increased so I did not see why they would close down the school.”

 

Duane Moody

“Were people paying?”

 

Nuria Aguirre

“People were paying; they are paying.”

 

According to the unsigned letter, issued by Administrator Vernon Shockler, the closure is due to several factors, including the non-payment of tuition fees by parents, the loss of financial support from the United States and the relationship between the church and school not where the board had envisioned it to be. It’s a big pill to swallow for Principal Aguirre and her staff of two teachers because after twenty years, the school is now locking up shop for good. And it seems there is more behind the decision than meets the eye.

 

Nuria Aguirre

“The management has decided that the school is not—they say financial—they are having financial problems so they are closing down the school. But there is a big problem behind this so I’m not really sure it was financial problems causing this shutting down the school.”

 

Duane Moody

“How many students actually go to the schools at this point in time and what will happen with them?”

 

Nuria Aguirre

“At this time, we have approximately hundred students including the preschools so parents were concerned, but Ministry of Education has talked to us and told us that there is space for their children at the Santa Familia RC School so we are working with that. We are making all necessary planning for the children to be transferred to the Santa Familia RC School.”

 

Duane Moody

“What about your teachers? How many teachers do you guys have at the school? What are you guys going to do?”

 

Nuria Aguirre

“Well, we have four teachers including the preschool teachers so we are seeking job in government right now so we are applying and trying to get a position in the government.”

 

The Ministry of Education, specifically the District Education Center Manager was brought in and accommodations are being made for the sixty plus students. Parents have already begun the process of registering their children at the neighbouring Bullet Tree primary school or closer at the Santa Familia RC School.

 

Estevan Escobar

Estevan Escobar, Principal, Santa Familia RC School

“Two weeks ago, a parent came over here and alarmed me about the stunning surprise that a school was closing; the Evangelical Holiness Academy will be closed. And he told me if we had space over here. And I thought over that this coming new school year, we are going to have more students enrolled in one institution. I arranged a meeting with the principal of Evangelical Holiness and I spoke to the parents because I am really concerned about the welfare and the students over here in the community. And I told them I will try my very best to accommodate them over here and see how we can get them to begin classes in September.”

 

But even as the transition is to take place and approximately forty-five students will be absorbed by the church/state primary school, there is an issue of physical classroom structures at the Santa Familia R.C. School. High-tension electrical wires from Belize Electricity Limited hover dangerously close to a decommissioned building. Principal Estevan Escobar explains:

 

Estevan Escobar 

“We are trying to accommodate them in one way or the other but we have some infrastructural factors that we are facing in terms of accommodating them in terms of buildings, new classes and so forth. I told him about a new building that is not in use because of B.E.L. telling us that that building cannot be used. So up to this time, we are looking forward to accommodate those students and we are looking forward to see if the building will be approved for us to be used. If not, we are looking forward to a plan B.”

 

Escobar says that they have already applied for three additional teachers to facilitate the expected increase in student population. Duane Moody for News Five.

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