Most of the students attending the Belize City primary school will be utilizing online learning for the next two months, as the building has been deemed unsafe.
by Khaila Gentle
BELIZE CITY, Wed. Sept. 7, 2022
The building that houses Saint Mary’s Anglican Primary School is currently in a severe state of disrepair and has been deemed unsafe for students to be inside. It is set to be demolished and rebuilt.
The General Manager for Anglican Pre and Primary Schools, Dr. Jeremy Cayetano, told us on Tuesday that assessments were done on the building in June of this year, after which engineers advised administrators that conducting classes inside was unsafe. A second assessment, done not long after, led to a similar warning from the engineers.
St. Mary’s Primary School was established in 1930 and is one of the country’s oldest standing structures. It sits just a stone’s throw away from the Fort Street Tourism Village, the Belize Marine Terminal which houses San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi, and an RCC BPO call center branch. While the surrounding community has seen much development over the years, though, the structural integrity of the school has only worsened.
The school has been in a state of disrepair for quite some time now. An online PowerPoint presentation from March 2010 documents the structural decay that the building had been undergoing even at that time and a request was made to the public for assistance. The presentation highlighted parts of the building’s structure that had crumbled to the point of the rebar being visible in several places. It also explained how patching that was done in some parts of the building proved to be only a temporary solution.
In one slide of the presentation, it was stated, “Our children deserve better.”
Twelve years later, the building has deteriorated past the point of possible repair. The only solution now is to demolish the entire structure and rebuild it. The school administration relayed that unfortunate news to parents less than two weeks ago—just before the re-opening of classes. They were told that the students, who had begun attending classes in person back in April, will have to go back to utilizing learning packages and online classes for the time being.
Dr. Cayetano said that she has asked parents—many of whom had been looking forward to their children returning to their physical classrooms once again—to bear with them a bit longer.
“We understand and we sympathize with the parents. However, we believe that this plan of the package and the online learning … we are trying to make it take the least possible amount of time.”
The Anglican Diocese is currently working on procuring six temporary wooden buildings to house all its students, with the first, which will house Infant 1 students, expected to arrive at the end of this month. The General Manager stated that all students should be back in physical classes by mid-November.
Some parents have criticized the abrupt notice given to them by the school, but according to the General Manager, the Anglican Diocese wanted to ensure that the information they gave to parents was as accurate as possible and that the delivery of the wooden buildings was confirmed.
Classes for Standard 6 students will be held in St. Mary’s Church.
Dr. Cayetano says that the diocese is aiming to have the new building closely resemble the current building so as to preserve its historic value. There will be upgrades, however, to meet the modern-day classroom needs of students. The cost of rebuilding is estimated to be around four million dollars.