“The opening of Notre Dame School is to be welcomed. It follows a catalogue of errors and delays which has been there for all to see and has affected many families, pupils and teachers. The backdrop to all that also saw the Minister for Education constantly shifting his position in a display of obvious bad planning by Government which was only cured by the dedication of huge and costly resources to the project. Ultimately it is the taxpayer that is footing the bill of the Government scrambling to save political face” said GSD Shadow Education spokesman Edwin Reyes.
There is no doubt that the new Notre Dame School opening its doors after 4 October should be welcomed as an improvement on the old school. However, the GSD remains cautious as to how much the Government’s refurbishment programme will actually cost and, more importantly, how it will be financed given the limited details provided thus far.
An official letter has been issued only a few days ago informing parents that Notre Dame School will be closed from Monday to Wednesday with pupils moving into the new school building on Thursday 4th October.
The Minister for Education said in Parliament only last March “we certainly cannot move a school in the middle of term time”. But the Government has had to abandon this pledge because of their decision to do away with the old school’s lunch hall and most of the playground. This demolition timetable therefore compromised the facilities the current Notre Dame had to offer. It further resulted in an almost 24 hour cycle of workers on site during the past month in order to make urgent progress in respect of the forthcoming works for the new St. Anne’s School project. This can only have increased costs exponentially. All that was unnecessary if the project had been planned properly.
Over the past eleven months the Government stubbornly promised, against all odds – time and time again, that Notre Dame School would be ready for 3rd September. However, just a week before the commencement of the new academic year, Government announced an extension to the summer holidays for pupils and back pedalled previous plans. Many parents by this stage certainly did not know whether they were coming or going in respect of the school’s start date. The GSD has been approached by some working parents who, given the relatively short notice, are now finding it difficult to make alternative arrangements for the care of their children during the three days when the school facilities will be closed. This certainly falls short of serious expectations which should have seen a more formal, considerate, engaged and consultative approach when taking important decisions such as these. It certainly was of no assistance to parents whatsoever when Minister Cortes explained that his strategy was that “the school shall be ready when it’s ready.”