Seven years after it was built, the new St. Joseph Secondary School is not being used to impart academic learning.
Instead, it is now being used as a haven for criminal elements and deviant students seeking to indulge in sexual acts and illicit activities.
Although the T&T Guardian visited the new school two years ago and was able to walk freely throughout the premises— concerned residents and other officials this week advised against a second visit as they warned that such an attempt might be met with violence by those occupying the premises illegally.
During a media briefing at the Ministry of Education, Port-of-Spain Garcia admitted they had been forced to engage the services of lawmen last week - after reports that three persons armed with guns had been intimidating students.
The armed persons were believed to be occupying the vacant premises which is situated two minutes away from the St. Joseph Police Station.
Pressed to say who was responsible for securing the vacant site, Garcia explained it was the particular contractor who retained overall authority.
He explained, “That site is a construction site and the Ministry of Education does not have the jurisdiction to enter into any construction site that is under the jurisdiction of a particular contractor unless we enter into negotiations with the contractor.”
He later added, “The contractor has abandoned the job and that is one of the things we are looking at.”
Two years ago - the building which was 95 per cent completed was looted of ceiling tiles, glass panes, laboratory sinks, plumbing and electrical fixtures, and wiring.
Home to stray dogs and other reptiles, the new building was also said to be used as a "stash" by persons to store illegal weapons and drugs.
At the time - school officials, students and residents from the surrounding community begged for security guards to be assigned to the facility or ensure the perimeter fences were reinforced.
While the main gate at the new school is locked to prevent unauthorised persons from accessing the compound at Farm Road, St. Joseph, innovative persons have "fashioned" a walk-through entrance within the main gate, enabling persons and animals to freely enter and exit.
A quick walk-through confirmed overgrown grass, flaking walls, flooded classrooms, garbage littered areas and vines snaking their way up the external walls.
Regarding the list of unfinished schools, Garcia said, “There are 27 schools that we have on a priority listing and Curepe Secondary School is one of the schools on that list. That matter is now in the hands of the MTS and they have been given responsibility to ensure the completion of those schools.”
A social media post by concerned parents yesterday claimed that classes at the school had been suspended.
However, ministry officials said they were unaware of such a development as they assured that classes continued uninterrupted.
Garcia said although steps had been taken to ensure the criminal elements were apprehended, law enforcement officials were yet to locate these persons as they had since disappeared.
Two years ago, school officials admitted they had caught students having sex in the new building which was also being used to sell drugs and had even once found a loaded gun on the premises.
Garcia concluded, “This is a police matter. It is not an education matter but we have taken steps to ensure the safety of our staff and students and things will be happening soon.”