Basseterre, St. Kitts – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education Shawn Richards has debunked claims that the now abandoned Basseterre High School campus has been sold and is now under private ownership, but admits the government is still uncertain what to do with the site.
Richard spoke at a press conference last week, saying that the government has not lent its mind to the old Basseterre High School site.
He, however, claimed that “the priority for the government at this point in time is addressing the new Basseterre High School. The education of our citizens is an investment greater than any other investment that can be made within the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. When you educate people, you educate them for a lifetime and you educate them for generations beyond the present one.”
He added that maybe after the conclusion of the construction of the new school, the government would give consideration on possibilities on what could be done with the Victoria Road campus.
“We must also take into consideration that the government took a decision to close that site because of the environmental effects upon the students and the rest of the faculty and staff,” he said. “To date, they have not had any report that has given a definite cause for the different issues that you had at the old Basseterre High School.”
Richards further stated that the causes of the issues faced at the old site must also be determined before any decision can be taken as to what to do with the old site.
“I have heard [people] suggesting that it is being sold to private entities…that is not the case,” Richards said. “The property is still in the hands of the government, in the hands of the public.”
Richards was also asked by the Observer as to what the government plans to do with the current temporary site of the school seeing as it was a significant investment from the government.
“The temporary school is located on leased land,” he said. “As to what is going to happen at the end of the day, I suppose that there is going to be some kind of negotiation and the owners of the land.”
He noted that the buildings can be repurposed and they took that into consideration when they were being designed and built.
The school has been embroiled in controversy since 2012 when students and teachers complained of feeling sick, blaming that on the facility. Following months of dialogue, testing and moving to various temporary locations, Education Minister Richards decided to follow a NIOSH report to remove the students from the site permanently and to take up temporary locations in Taylor’s Village next to the Washington Archibald High School. The promise to build a new school came soon afterward.
In November, Richards disclosed that a Pond’s location has been identified to house the school after previously stating that five sites had been identified as possible locations for the new school. He added that two of the most favored sites were one of the Pond’s area sites and one at Shadwell.
The decision to move the school from its original location has come under sharp critism from members of the opposition, who remain adamant that there is nothing wrong with the original Basseterre High School location.