by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Several years after staff and students were forced to abandon their space at the Basseterre High School, the construction of a new school building has yet again been put forward to the general public. A Facebook post from Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris confirms that the construction of the new Basseterre High School is scheduled to begin in the near future.
However, a specific date for the start of the construction has not been shared.
The school will be erected at Pond’s Estate, just on the city’s outskirts. A billboard on-site shows a picture of the soon to be built academic institution and essential details relating to the construction. The job is entrusted to the Public Works Department, St. Kitts, whilst the architectural plan was done by Formwork Architecture Inc from Barbados. Stantec Caribbean, based in Barbados, will be providing engineering services, whilst Management Consultancy will be provided by Innotech Services- St Kitts Limited.
The Basseterre High School was forcibly shut down in 2012 amidst contamination concerns. Teachers and students wore face masks and gloves to school to protect themselves; However, their efforts were futile, as teachers and students revealed that their gloves changed colour almost instantly and similar symptoms were being experienced.
After the school was shut down, the promise of a new school was made after an Environmental Impact Assessment was conducted. The assessment was also contested, with many saying the school could be decontaminated, renovated and reused as the school. However, those suggestions were not taken.
The construction of the new school has been in the works since 2015.
In 2018 former Deputy Prime Minister Shawn Richards said construction of the new Basseterre High School (BHS) “must” commence that year, saying that he did not expect 2019 to roll around and construction had not begun.
During the 2021 Budget Debate in December 2020, the Minister of Education, Jonel Powell, noted that the construction had taken longer than anticipated.
Similarly, in his Budget address in December 2021 for this year, a similar sentiment was made by Powell that the school would be built in 2022, after constant concern about the location of the site for the school.
Concerns were being raised about the water table located at the Royal Basseterre National Valley, which is the area to the east of the Kim Collins Highway
The then Minister dispelled the concerns about the location and said it is being built further west, closer to town and will not affect the water table or the water supply in Basseterre.
Back in May of 2017, Cromwell Williams, Director of Public Works, visited the “site of the new Basseterre High School, Ponds Estate,” and reported to the public that the site had been “properly assessed and all checks have been carried out to ensure that the environment remains safe”.
Now, the Prime Minister is suggesting that construction is about to begin, writing that “The New Basseterre High School is about to begin. Thanks to our new Minister of Education, the Hon Vincent Byron, who within a short period of time is getting the job done,” with two months left before the snap elections are constitutionally due.
The cost of the new school also went through several changes. In 2016, an initial sum of $10M was budgeted for the institution’s construction. Richards adjusted the cost of the school to $40 million in 2017 but explained that it was subject to change.
Also, in 2017, architect and planner Mr Victor Williams told WINN that the figure was understated and would cost around $80 million to include fixtures, fittings and more.
According to the 2021 and 2022 Budget Estimates, the funds allocated to the Basseterre High School are $30 million.
Going through the budget estimates from 2020 to 2016, the new Basseterre High School had a budgeted cost of $30 million.
According to the plans for the school, the campus will feature 32 classrooms, a music centre with two dedicated music rooms, four science labs and six computer labs, a dedicated lecture room, counselling and health service facilities, an auditorium with a seating capacity for a minimum of 1,200 people and upgraded sporting facilities that will meet international standards.