Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd.
By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
WITH less than three weeks until public schools reopen, Education Minister Jeff Lloyd said those facilities needing critical repairs are about 75 percent complete.
According to the minister yesterday, contractors have assured him the work will be done to meet the opening of schools on September 2.
“I am checking on the schools every single day and I am very satisfied that the contractors are on schedule in some instances ahead of schedule,” the South Beach MP said outside Cabinet. “So I am very very pleased about that.
“You will remember that there are nine New Providence schools which are in (a) critical state and those contractors are doing an extraordinary job. As a matter of fact we are approximately three weeks away from the opening of school and generally those nine schools are in the neighbourhood of 75 per cent ready, completed in terms of repairs.”
Responding to concerns that the completion timeline was ambitious, Mr Lloyd said: “It is ambitious. It is not a criticism. I accept that it is ambitious but because of the nature of the repairs and because of the time frame, that is why we were very selective in those contractors (making sure that they were) people capable of doing it who can mount the required resources who didn’t need mobilisation in order to get started and those nine contractors (are) very experienced. They have worked for the Ministry of Education, the government and the Ministry of Works over many years - very experienced, very capable and that’s why they were chosen to execute this critical work and I can assure you can go and visit.
“Many of those schools were in such dire straits in terms of disrepair that they were a safety threat to our people.”
He said the progress was the same in the Family Islands with the exception of Exuma where there was a later start.
Overall, he said the ministry did not have to seek additional funding to complete repairs to every school in the country. “We had those $45m in our budget (so)we just reallocated them to deal with the more critical repairs,” he explained.
Late last month, Mr Lloyd said $9m had been budgeted to complete critical works to nine schools.
Of the nine “critical” schools requiring renovations, Mr Lloyd noted at the time that CI Gibson Senior High School, CH Reeves, LW Young and DW Davis Junior High Schools are in the most “serious” state of disrepair.
The price tag for the repairs was up from the $7.2m figure he identified to reporters previously.
Meanwhile, Bahamas Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson yesterday expressed her doubts the repairs would be finished in time for the new school term.
“I’m not optimistic that in three weeks time, when schools reopen that these schools will be ready,” she told reporters.
Mrs Wilson called for alternate sites to be identified in the event the repairs are not completed.
As for negotiations with the BUT, Mr Lloyd said they were back on track.
“This is the stage now that is most critical - the money stage and they are at the Ministry of Finance in discussions with the financial secretary and the deputy prime minister and the minister of finance definitely,” Mr Lloyd said.