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Mar 13, 2019

Health Officials Shut Down Holy Angels School Building

Holy Angels Roman Catholic School, along the Stann Creek Valley in Pomona Village, is asking for the public’s help tonight. For some years now, the school has been tackling a growing infestation problem and decaying structures. It is really a maintenance problem; an issue, which according to the Roman Catholic schools handbook, falls directly under the purview of the management. But despite the school’s attempts to get the management’s help, they have failed to address the problem.  At the end of February, the buildings were shut down by health officials because it is no longer safe to be used. Last year, several teachers got sick because of the infestation and during the rainy season, it was impossible to use some of the classrooms. Today, reporter Andrea Polanco found out that the problem is bigger than one school building and the school cannot afford to address the problem alone. Here’s the story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

This is the oldest school building at Holy Angels Roman Catholic School in Pomona, Stann Creek.  Before the end of February, it housed six classrooms – two classes each of Infant One, Infant Two and Standard One. One hundred and sixteen students were in classrooms in this building. Two weeks ago, health officials closed down the building because there are infestations of bats, termites and rats. A rotting roof has also compounded the problem especially when it rains and health officials say it is no longer safe to use this building. Teacher Noreen McKenzie is one of the teachers who had to move from this old school building.

 

Noreen McKenzie

Noreen McKenzie, Infant 1 Teacher, Holy Angels Primary School

“In the other Infant One classroom, the rat bats can be found there daily. All during the day they are there flying. In my side we haven’t been seeing a lot of rat bats during the day but I guess in the night they come out because we come in the morning and find a lot of rat bat feces on the table and on the ground. We have a lot of rat infestation. We can see signs of the rats bringing in dirt from outside. When we come in the morning we have to sweep again even though we sweep in the evening and that is because of the rat bringing in the dirt and the rat bats. Even though we painted our walls before school opened, we can see the wood lice on the walls and all their mess on the tables and chairs when we come back in the morning. When it rains – on this eastern side of the building – it leaks so that only half of the classroom is available for the children to use. The other half is saturated with water and then that leaks through to the other Infant One and Standard One classrooms.”

 

But the problems are not new – parents and teachers say that this has been happening for a few years now. The school has made numerous reports to the Catholic School Management but those complaints have fallen on deaf ears. And so when the students were ordered to vacate the building – the school was pushed to find a solution. They tried outdoors but that wasn’t ideal. Since then, they have had to double classroom sizes to accommodate the students – instead of six classes for the lower division there are now only three. Those three classrooms are from Standards Two, five and six – who now also have to share classrooms with others students.  The doubling up has caused some overcrowding and other inconveniences that ultimately affect the students.

 

Noreen McKenzie

“So the staff decided that they were going to put their class together to accommodate us but it is kinda hard because it is like two class in each classroom now. It is really difficult to get your concept.  You don’t have the space; no where to put your charts; nowhere to put your visual aid.  We are only being accommodated in that classroom so we can’t tale our stuff over there because the teacher stuff is already in there. We share plan and so one teacher plan some of the subjects and I plan the other subjects. So whatever subjects she plan, she teachers while I supervise everybody and while I teach then she supervises everybody and that is the way we do it.  It is distracting, very distracting. We have to do a lot of supervision and a lot of discipline. Nothing like when you have them in your little area. I have been teaching for a while and I have about two more years in the classroom and so I have more control over them. You know teachers teach differently. I have my children already disciplined one way and then to put them with everybody it is kinda hard for them.”

 

But this is only a temporary fix. The school now needs to repair this building but they cannot afford it. The estimate for repairs will cost over twenty-one thousand dollars. And just across from this rundown school building is another structure that that is in bad condition. This wooden building houses three classrooms. Teacher Emil Viera has had to use hundreds of dollars out of her pockets to repair her standard-four classroom with some support from the school.

 

Emil Viera

Emil Viera, Standard Four Teacher, Holy Angels School

“I do have certain areas that are rotten and the floor is shaky. I don’t walk over it and the students know and so they don’t really walk over that area so that they can avoid falling in. We have had other instances in the other classrooms whereby the students have fallen through the holes. We have had like four different cases in one of the teachers’ classroom where the students fall through the hole. Up to November I had a lot of leak in my classroom. I had like half of the classroom that I couldn’t use any at all. So, what I had to do, I was recommended to lift the floor because it was sinking in the middle since the classroom is in the middle. It was recommended to me that I do some stumps to lift the floors so that there is less leaks in the classroom. And I must say that it did help. Some of the materials I bought them and some of it the principal had purchased for me. The linoleum that is on the floor has been destroyed because of the leaks and the moisture that it keeps because it is a board building. Also some of the charts had gotten wet and I had to replace them. Then it is out of my pocket, of course.”

 

So to fix all these problems and get the students back into their classrooms, Holy Angels Primary school needs your help.

 

Noreen McKenzie

“Please, please, for the sake of the children, because it is for them. Please give us any assistance that you could whether it is materials, financially or manually; whatever it is. We would really, really appreciate it.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

 

So, Holy Angels Primary School does not have twenty-one thousand plus dollars. When we inquired about the fees that students pay, we were told that only about thirty to forty percent of the students pay their registration fees and even those are not paid on time. The school is hoping to do some fundraisers in the coming weeks, but if you can assist the school with materials, labour or finance, you are asked to call Principal Sadie Asevedo at 502-3202 or send an email to holyangelspom@gmail.com  As a point to note, we tried to get in touch with the Catholic School Management today, but we were unable to reach anyone. We understand that the representatives will be visiting the school on Thursday.

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