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Acting Chief Education Officer Rufina Charles said the merger of the George Charles and the Jon Odlum secondary schools have been successful and the Ministry of Education will use the same formula for future mergers.
The new school is the ‘Stanley Jon Odlum Secondary School’.
“Jon Odlum had a capacity of about 600 and George Charles as well, and so even after we did the merging, we do not have 400 students at the school,” Charles told DBS. “However this process, we can say is a successful one. There is stability in the schools, the teachers have come together very well, and the school is creating its own culture.
“We are very happy with how the process have gone so far and we hope to do an evaluation of the process so that we can take the best practices here to kind of use them for the future mergers that we intend to do. I think that there are lots of lessons to be learnt from this and this we will go into use to help us with the others,” she said.
The merger has resulted in new uniforms for the students, which is added costs to parents. Recognising this, the ministry stepped in to assist.
On Monday, March 19, 2018, Education Minister Dr. Gale Rigobert donated uniforms to the students of the school.
Speaking to DBS, Dr. Rigobert explained how the initiative to assist the parents with the cost of the uniforms as well as the merger of the schools came about.
Dr. Rigobert said shortly after she took office in 2016 she visited Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and she was informed that many of the buildings were dilapidated and would not be safe to hold classes. As such, she sought to find alternative, temporary accommodation for the classes which were due to resume soon.
She added: “My technical staff advised that perhaps we could use the George Charles Secondary School, given that it appeared that there was excess capacity at Jon Odlum, hence we could move the students there. Initially, it was a temporary arrangement but as we negotiated the loan agreement, knowing how long these things can take, part of which would be devoted to rehabilitating the buildings at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, it appeared to make increasingly good sense that perhaps there was an opportunity to merge George Charles and Jon Odlum given that both schools had experimented with the curricula and were beginning to see significant results. And that marrying the two schools would result in offering our students a better option, a wider range and diversity of subjects, and would allow for those who are skilled, especially in the areas of technical and vocational and professions or incarnations, that they would have many other courses that they could choose from.”
The education minister said eventually she realised the cost that would be borne by the parents as a result of the merger, and stepped in to assist.
“And so as a goodwill gesture, recognising full well that especially those who are already in the two schools, that their parents would have to incur significant expenses to replace their existing uniforms or the newly designed ones, and so I offered a new uniform to each student at the newly merged school. So this morning we had the formal presentation of those uniforms and I want to thank the private sector, our friends the diplomatic core, the international community for their donations, such that we could make this presentation possible today,” Dr. Rigobert said.
Acting principal of the merged school, Neil Fontenelle thanked the ministry and the minister for the “good gesture”.
He said: “We are very happy for that because we had a number of issues, uniform issues, especially the school crest, because a lot of students, what they would have done was to remove the old crest from the former school and put on a new crest. …
“Some of them would have used uniforms from the last year, especially trousers which have a very long lifespan but again George Charles, former George Charles, there was a dark blue trouser but our school now has black trouser, so those parents had to purchase all these items on their own.
“So I think it was a good gesture on the part of the minister. Considering that the merger was an initiative by the Ministry of Education, the parents really were not part and parcel in terms of the decision making so I think it was a good gesture by the ministry to come on board and make that initiative for the students.”