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Sep 6, 2022

St Mary’s School Building Structurally Unsafe; Students Engage in Distance Learning

The news came simultaneously with flooding in low-lying areas of the city in the last week of June –St. Mary’s Primary School and Hall are no longer structurally sound. The only course of action that can be taken is for the structures to be demolished and rebuilt. But that news did not reach parents of returning schoolchildren until last week, forcing them to make last-minute plans to have their children supervised while they engage in extended distance learning at home. The school will be torn down, but while a great part of Belize’s history will be lost, the school will eventually be rebuilt to accommodate the school’s growing population. News Five’s Marion Ali went to the school and found out that the rebuilding process will not inhibit the learning process. Here’s that report.


Marion Ali, Reporting

It is one of Belize City’s oldest concrete buildings still standing – St Mary’s Hall with school buildings adjoined on either side. Thousands of students have passed through the gates, as well as these classrooms at St. Mary’s Primary over the decades. The cornerstone gives a clear indication just how long this building has been erected. It was officially opened on May eighth, 1930, when Belize was still under colonial rule. But this landmark has reached its twilight, and is no longer deemed safe for occupancy. General Manager for Anglican Schools, Dr. Jeremy Cayetano said that engineers initially apprised them of the situation on the last day of school back in June. A second opinion came later.


Jeremy Cayetano

Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, General Manager, Anglican Pre & Primary Schools

“The appraisal came back to say that they would not recommend that students be allowed to use the buildings. We had a second appraisal done primarily because we wanted to see if there was any way that we could shore up the building to be able to safely use it for some time, at least a year while we source the funds to rebuild the building. The second appraisal came back to say they would not recommend that we do that and that caused us to spring into action.”


The Anglican diocese is in the process of acquiring four temporary wooden buildings, the first of which should arrive at the end of this month so that children can return and engage in physical interactions.

Dr. Jeremy Cayetano

“Yesterday our students and their parents came to school, they came to the church where we gave them distance learning packages and then now they’re going to be online with their teachers until they are back in class. There’s a space in the church where the standard six students can be almost immediately, they’re going to be having classes in the church. So by the end of September we will have our first building. Thereafter we will have a building a week as was promised to us by the builders.”



But while this majestic grand old lady will be no more, there will be a new structure built to replicate its historic magnificence.


Dr. Jeremy Cayetano

“We are in discussions with the Ministry of Education and we are hoping that through the organizations that they are connected to, primarily the Social Investment Fund, SIF, that we will be able to garner funds to build. And we’re hoping to rebuild as is, we don’t want to lose the structure due to the historical value.”


The historical value that Cayetano makes reference to is where past students, including Bernard Clare got their head start in life.  In his case, that’s well over six decades ago.


Bernard Clare

Bernard Clare, Past Graduate, St Mary’s Primary School

“My mother will be ninety-seven in November. Everybody supposed to know mi ma, Ms Valda. She attended this school, her sister was older than her and she attended this school and so did most of the family. We kept assemblies in the hall and that was a big thing for us, everyday all the time, and that was one of the things that teach us to be nation builders. We at St Mary’s used to come here on Saturdays early in the morning with Ms Gillett and dish out a hundred and fifty plates of soup to give to people around – like the homeless and so. They’ve been so many weddings, baptisms, birthday parties.”


The construction of the replacement building is going to be a couple years down the road. It’s going to cost a pretty penny to demolish the derelict building and build the new one. Estimates have been set at almost four million dollars. Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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