Bellefield High moving closer to end shift system

MANDEVILLE, Manchester – The construction of eight classrooms is to begin within a week at Bellefield High School, a few miles north-east of here, as part of a process towards removing the school from the shift system.

Principal of Bellefield High Paul Grant told the Jamaica Observer that the school, which has 1,400 students, raised and saved $20 million for the expansion project.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) will reportedly contribute to the construction phase by covering labour costs.

Construction of the eight classrooms is scheduled to be completed in three months.

“We want to finish them [classrooms] in time for September morning,” Grant told the Sunday Observer last Friday.

He explained that the school used its own means to secure funding and save towards the project.

“The funding is exclusively that of the school. We would have secured funding from parents over the past three years. The contribution that the parents would pay to the school, last year we were able to save quite a bit, because there was no physical school. We were able to save about $20 million,” he said.

The principal said the expansion project was seen by school leaders as urgent because of the need to remove the shift system, which he suggested was leaving some students short-changed. Grant observed that while the MOE has consistently listed elimination of the decades-old shift system as a priority, it has been hindered by budgetary constraints.

He cited research, which he said shows that students who attend classes on an afternoon shift are at risk of being less attentive than those who attend classes on a morning shift.

“Studies would have shown that it creates a serious reduction in retention of learning concepts being taught on the afternoon shift. Students on the afternoon shift tend to be a bit more aggressive, because of the time of the day. The teachers on that shift would have far more difficulty in getting the students to learn,” said Grant.

“The board of management led by Reverend Ulit Brackett…had this dream that we would love to start the process of removing ourselves from the shift system,” said Grant.

The school board in partnership with the institution’s alumni association and the parent-teacher association (PTA), as well as technically skilled teachers have been essential to the project.

“What we did was to have the teachers who are in the building construction department – Okiene Dennis, Ian Christie, and Christopher McIntosh – draw a plan for eight classrooms with offices. This was submitted to the board. We sent a copy to the ministry of education and it was approved,” said Grant.

In addition, the Manchester Municipal Corporation waived its fees in granting a building permit to the institution.

Meanwhile, councillor for the Bellefield Division (PNP) Mario Mitchell lauded Grant for his leadership and determination to start construction.

“Mr Grant has been very stern in his advocacy for the addition because Bellefield has a large population, so to come off the shift system it needs another 10 classrooms,” said Mitchell.

The councillor said that the drive to build the additional classrooms through a partnership of public and private sources of funding has been in the making for years. He said even more help will be needed in the future.

“The target is to get assistance to do the other phases because this will not necessarily take the school off the shift system, but it is a start,” said Mitchell.

Grant said stakeholders are eager to see the project off the ground and he envisions that when complete there will be increased enrolment at the institution.

He also thanked the MOE, the alumni association and other stakeholders for donating electronic devices to students in light of the present COVID-19 restrictions.

“The ministry has given some 64 laptops for students who are on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH). The alumni association secured some 35 tablets for students,” he said.

He added that the school’s Vice-Principal Major Suba procured, through an overseas foundation, additional laptops for needy students.

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