The groundbreaking for the new high school in West Bay will take place 8 April, the Minister of Education Roy Bodden revealed in an interview Saturday.
Construction on the West Bay high school will take place simultaneously with that on the Frank Sound high school.
‘Both schools will come on line in September 2007,’ Mr. Bodden said.
The high school in West Bay will be on Crown land in the Fountain/Birch Tree Hill area near the primary school.
The high school in Frank Sound will be named the Clifton Hunter Memorial High School, while a name for the West Bay high school has not been decided, Mr. Bodden said.
Mr. Bodden said John Gray High School will be closed for rebuilding after the two high schools have been opened.
‘Once it’s closed, some of the students will have to go to Frank Sound and some will have to go to West Bay while John Gray is rebuilt.’
Some of John Gray High School will be incorporated in to the rebuilding, but other parts will be torn down.
Completion of John Gray could extend until 2010, Mr. Bodden said.
‘John Gray will almost be a whole new school,’ he said. ‘Parts will have to be demolished, removed and reconstructed, which takes more time.
‘We’re looking at this as a five-year plan for the reform of our secondary schools,’ he said.
Mr. Bodden said the cost of building the two new high schools and then rebuilding John Gray is estimated to be $90 million.
Mr. Bodden said the new high schools will be built for use as hurricane shelters.
‘We made the mistake before of using some schools as hurricane shelters that weren’t built to hurricane shelter standards,’ he said.
‘We’re going to bunker sections of the schools this time and build them 12 to 15 feet above sea level so they’re not subject to flooding.’
Mr. Bodden said the West Bay school will also have a civic centre portion.
Another thing Mr. Bodden wants to see is a 5,000-seat auditorium built at one of the school sites.
The auditorium would be used for large school functions like graduations and theatre productions, but also for rental as a convention hall or for other private sector needs.
Mr. Bodden said the auditorium could be sectionalised so that people could rent only the part needed.
Originally, Mr. Bodden considered putting the auditorium at the Frank Sound location, but the new high school plan has changed that thinking.
‘Based on its location, the auditorium should be at the John Gray site,’ he said.
The reason to build the West Bay high school in addition to the Frank Sound high school was made with the welfare of the students in mind, Mr. Bodden said.
‘Studies have shown that having smaller, more manageable numbers (of students), improves children’s behaviour, as well as their performance in school,’ he said.
Leader of Government Business McKeeva Bush said the West Bay school was important to the people of his district.
‘This will give children of this age group the option of staying in the district,’ he said, noting that the Ed Bush Stadium and Scholar’s Park were both in the vicinity for use by the students.
Mr. Bush said having a school in West Bay would also help alleviate traffic along West Bay Road, and that it followed principles of the National Strategic Plan in its placement of schools close to the various districts.