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All government schools experienced the wrath of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004, some more than others. Despite many challenges, 18-million dollars in building costs and six million in lost assets, two months after the hurricane (29 November), all government schools were reopened. This was achieved with minimal disruptions to Year 12 examination students, who returned earlier on 21 October.

The Ministry of Education concentrated on a number of key priorities including providing a safe and healthy environment for students; replacing equipment and educational materials; providing counselling support in schools, focusing on the curriculum and developing strategies for making up for lost school time.

Schedules for health and safety checks on all schools, together with essential remediation work, were put in place with the Environmental Health Department. The Public Works Department (PWD) played a significant role by carrying out assessments on the schools; appointing contractors and acting as project managers monitoring the repair work.

In spite of efforts to get things moving quickly, delays did hamper progress including the reconnection of key services like electricity and phone lines; the usage of schools as hurricane shelters; shipping schedules and the availability of materials for repairs; the ability to secure contractors with sufficient labour; as well as delays caused by health and safety concerns.

Many schools suffered substantial damage during the storm, preventing them from re-opening as promptly as anticipated. Efforts were made to concentrate on repairing sufficient rooms that could be readily brought on stream for occupancy as soon as possible.

As a short-term solution, schools operated as learning centres, providing a sense of structure and continuity for students. To develop skills in a range of subjects, their focus was on core subjects and a range of enrichment opportunities. Centres followed an adapted curriculum prepared by the Education Department and received teacher guidance, resource material and replacement texts, if required. Timetables included a range of creative activities such as art, music and PE.

Whilst rebuilding work continued, 20 temporary classrooms were ordered and distributed at school sites where additional classroom space was required. At John Gray High School, where 90% of its buildings were damaged, a shift system was introduced to permit all students to attend school daily for either a morning or an afternoon session. The Education Department developed enrichment activities for students when they were not in school.

Last Updated: 2010-08-15