Construction on unfinished school could resume in December

Bulk of $6.2 million budget allocation went to other projects

Officials are still doing administrative “groundwork” to restart the unfinished John Gray High School building project.  

Premier Alden McLaughlin in his 2014 budget address said $6.2 million had been allocated for capital projects in education, including for the completion of the multipurpose hall at the half-built school. 

Education Minister Tara Rivers indicated this would be the first step in a phased completion of the building, which was left half built after funds ran out. 

A year later, no work has been done at the site and officials now say the bulk of the $6.2 million allocation went to other projects.  

Christen Suckoo, acting chief officer in the Ministry of Education, said a steering committee had been set up to get the John Gray project back on track, with an aim to pick up construction in December this year. 

Mr. McLaughlin had suggested in his budget address for 2014/15, delivered a year ago, that work would be substantially under way by now, highlighting an allocation of “$6.2 million for the Ministry of Education for the completion of the multipurpose hall and ancillary infrastructure at the John Gray High School in George Town; and upgrades at other schools.” 

Mr. Suckoo acknowledged that to date, none of the $6.2 million allocation had been spent on John Gray. He said it had largely been used for other projects, including the procurement of new interactive whiteboards for primary schools. 

He said the Ministry of Education would use some of the cash before the end of the budget year for surveying work and mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire surveys at the building site, on land adjoining the existing school. 

“Given that the project has laid dormant for some time, there are initial works required before we can move to construction,” he added. 

He believes construction at the site will pick up before the end of the year. 

“At this point, there are no increased costs associated with the project being dormant,” he said. 

“However, in order to deliver the project efficiently, we need to ensure that we understand the state of the buildings and all of the related systems, and any associated risks, prior to engaging the construction phase of the project.” 

Mr. McLaughlin referenced the school construction in this year’s budget address on Friday, saying work on the hall should be completed in 2016. 

Mr. Suckoo said officials are currently going through the steps required by the Public Management and Finance Law and expect to “break ground” on construction this year. 

“As previously indicated, we will be proceeding using a phased approach, concentrating on the gym building first,” he said. 

Mr. Suckoo said he could not give cost estimates for the hall or for the completion of the school as they are subject to a competitive tender process and could change. 

As of March 2012, $54.4 million had been spent on the half-built school. At the time, then-Education Minister Rolston Anglin estimated a further $43 million would be required to finish the job. 

Ms. Rivers said in her budget speech last year that the existing John Gray High School was “one of the most dilapidated physical buildings that our students are having to endure on a daily basis.”  

The John Gray High School remains half built. – PHOTO: TANEOS RAMSAY