Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New School!

In my waning days in Dominica, I'm feeling good about closing various “chapters in the book” of my service here. I'm thrilled with how the Courts for Kids project went, as the court (and the new soccer goals) are getting used a lot each day (thanks especially to those of you who donated towards this project).
The annual Village Feast (which requires a lot of hard work to produce) ended Monday night. This year's celebration saw us go from an emotional high of a very successful Saturday night, to an emotional low with the tragic deaths of five young men when their car plunged over a 400 foot cliff. No one was in the mood to celebrate the final two nights, so the decision was made to not charge admission (thus negating my job selling tickets from behind the burglar bars at the school). Indeed, the sadness still lingers on in this tight-knit community. Hopefully the final numbers will at least allow the Village Council to break even on the finances of this year's event. [The nearby village of Penville, home of the five who died, made the decision to completely cancel their upcoming village feast out of respect to the deceased.]
Yesterday, I was able to participate in a meeting that hopefully will lead to the closure of another chapter of my experience here. Eight years ago, the decrepit old school building in my village was closed and demolished, and a nearby community building (originally built primarily as locker rooms for sports teams competing on the adjacent playing field) was temporarily converted into a makeshift school building. When this decision was originally made, it was thought to be a one-year, temporary quarters until the new replacement school could be constructed. No one dreamed that we would still be crammed into this little building eight years later! However, various competing government needs (including Tropical Storm Erika recovery) kept pushing our project onto the back burner. Nonetheless, the staff of our school has worked hard to overcome these difficult conditions.
Now, with less than two weeks remaining, I was able to get a glimpse of the future school planned for my village. A public presentation was made at the current school yesterday afternoon. It included the Minister of Education and about half a dozen top officials from the Ministry of Education. It also included a couple of architects from the Ministry of Public Works. They laid out the plans they have developed for the new, two story, reinforced concrete school that will built upon the site of the original school (located at the base of a hill adjacent to our beautiful playing field).
The new classrooms on the upper floor will be double the size of the current classrooms. As with other new schools the government has been building in recent years, an early childhood learning facility (pre-school) will be added on the lower floor. An indoor cafeteria is included, along with a modern kitchen. A library and a technology lab, which potentially can house as many as 20 computers, will also be built. It all looks beautiful!
I've interspersed in this story some of the architectural drawings that were shown yesterday. There were a few “tweaks” that were discussed in yesterday's dialog between the officials and the locals. Personally, I am interested in seeing how the retaining wall around the edge of the playing field might be used for spectator seating at sporting events held there. I also hope that the clear water spring that emerges on the hillside between the school and the health center might be enhanced for usage during water outages.
The officials will take the feedback they received yesterday and make some minor changes. Then they will work on getting the project tender ready to go out for bidding. That will take several months, and once the project is announced, the procurement process will take several more months. Hopefully before the end of the upcoming school year, construction will finally begin on this long overdue school. It will be an important component to the overall health and vitality of our village.
I'm looking forward to someday coming back and roaming the rooms that I first visualized in these drawings. It makes it easier for me to leave knowing that good things are happening for my school and my village!

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