Students of the Toco Secondary School are still at home after the school was closed three week ago due to damage sustained by the 6.9 magnitude earthquake in August.
The damage, added to the deterioration that had been occurring for a number of years as a result of the institution's close proximity to the sea, have now rendered the school uninhabitable.
Parents and students are still awaiting information as to when the school will be reopened, or where students will be housed in the interim.
PTA executive Angel Taylor Douglas told the T&T Guardian that students in forms 4-6 were supposed to return to school on Monday. They were told students would have been housed in the current prefab buildings on the school’s compound for two days a week, a temporary plan suggested by the Ministry of Education.
However, on Monday the prefab buildings still had not received the necessary electrical repairs to accommodate the students.
The school was in the spotlight as recent as July 2017 when five of its past students, including Olympian Keshorn Walcott, were nominated for First Citizens Sports Personality of the Year awards. Walcott, a gold and bronze medal Olympic champion, emerged the winner.
A year later, the school has been shut down with no estimation as to when it will be reopened.
Toco Secondary has been in a state of disrepair for some10 years. In 2012, the school was outfitted with prefab buildings which were stationed in the front of the original school structure. This was introduced as a temporary solution after the school began to physically fall apart. Six years later, the prefab buildings have also become uninhabitable.
Earlier this month during MP Lovell Francis’ post-earthquake school visits, he was invited by the Toco Secondary School PTA to view the school. The derelict school was deemed unsafe and subsequently closed.
“Given the extent of the damage from time and the environment which was worsened by the quake we had no choice,” Francis said then.
Francis indicated that as a result of his visit, the school will be outfitted with at least one additional prefab building to join the existing ones they were given six years ago. He said he is currently awaiting information from the technocrats on this case to give an estimated time as to when they would be able to reopen the school.
Speaking on the issue, interim PTA PRO Abigail Charles said their long-term goal is to ensure Toco gets a new school building and that the temporary solution of housing the children in prefabs “pending construction remains temporary and not a permanent fixture.”
Charles is one of several parents leading the charge on behalf of the community to ensure Toco is no longer neglected.
“We would like the public to know that Toco Secondary is deserving of attention like any other school. Our situation is dire and requires immediate attention and that all efforts must be made to give us a proper school,” she wrote in an email.
“The toilet facility is dilapidated, the sewer system is dysfunctional, the labs and classrooms are hot and uncomfortable. The electrical system is faulty and corroded and there is the issue of bird infestation. In essence, all the buildings are literally falling apart.”
Currently, there are no plans to house the students elsewhere in the interim while provisions are being made for the prefab buildings and according to Francis, hope for a new school in the near future is dismal.
“It is being discussed but the issue is, of course, going to be finances. We have 107 incomplete schools all across the landscape,” Francis said of the situation.