MIDDLE REGION–Foundation Catholic Education (FCE) St. Maarten recently formed a partnership with the Middle Region/Defiance Community Council. The aim of this partnership is the creation of a new state-of-the art “Exceptional School.”
“Middle Region and Defiance suffered great damage during the passing of the catastrophic Hurricane Irma. Many homes were destroyed, and many people are without jobs. It’s a bleak situation. Fortunately, the Red Cross has been assisting with food and with building roofs,” stated Community Council President Angelica Chittick.
Sister Marie Laurence Primary School, the only school in this district, also suffered tremendous damage. “The Sister Marie Laurence Primary School sustained major damage to the building as a result of the passing of Hurricane Irma,” stated FCE St. Maarten Project Manager Tanja Frederiks.
The school was subsequently also looted and vandalised, leaving behind, basically, the shell of the school. However, FCE, will not be deterred by this immense setback.
The Exceptional School is part of their plans for the future. The School will maintain the use of the Foundation-Based Education (FBE) curriculum, but will focus much more on the pupils’ overall development.
Based on the diverse needs of the school population and considering the fact that the majority of pupils face many severe challenges that greatly affect their general well-being and, therefore, their ability to function optimally at school, a project plan was written to create a better, more conducive and positive environment where the focus will be on the pupils’ holistic development.
Therefore, the focus will be more on non-academic subjects such as Arts and Crafts, Music, Home Economics and Sports.
“Each of these pupils, especially the very vulnerable and/or less-affluent ones who don’t have many opportunities, also has abilities and talents. As a school we want to cater to these … so that they too have opportunities to develop these … and possibly create their future jobs based on these talents.
“We need to sway away from the notion that only smart students who do well in math and language have a bright future as a lawyer or an accountant. Some children have golden hands or have a fantastic ear for music.
“We must offer the children, especially those who may be non-academically inclined or have no access to these due to lack of funds at home, the necessary tools to develop their unique talents so that they too can become proud, productive citizens of our nation,” stated Frederiks.
The Project Plan encompasses four different elements that need to be tackled, one of which is the facility. FCE presented its plans to the Ministry of Education, Culture Youth and Sports in February, and is hoping to receive funds from the World Bank/Recovery Fund to rebuild the entire school building and gym hall, which is deemed of the utmost importance for the success of the school’s transformation.
The present school structure, besides being severely damaged, has absolutely no room for any activities besides the regular classroom activities. The new school campus would house many much-needed facilities, including an Arts and Crafts Room, a Music Room, a Library and Parent Resource Centre.
In terms of sustainability, a much stronger structure is needed to prevent any delays in the reopening of the school in case of inclement weather. Because the school also serves as a hurricane shelter, it is deemed of vital importance that persons have a safe and secure place to stay during storms or hurricanes. The new buildings will be constructed very solidly, with concrete roofs.
Funding via the National Disaster Fund (Nationale Rampenfonds) in the Netherlands is also being sought to transform the area next to school and to create a much-better-equipped basketball court, a playground facility and gardening centre. This project is being worked on in collaboration with Windward Roads, National Sports Institute and the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI.
Rotary Club funding
“We are very fortunate that the Rotary Club of St. Maarten has adopted this school, and together with their assistance 11 International Rotary Clubs in Canada, USA, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have donated to this cause. Rotary Club Huizen-Gooimeer in Holland is the largest international sponsor. Both the Rotary Club of St. Maarten and of Huizen-Gooimeer have been instrumental with the process of requesting a grant from The Rotary Foundation.
“It is truly inspirational how the Rotary Clubs have joined forces to assist with the Exceptional School project here in St. Maarten. The members of the Rotary Club Huizen-Gooimeer all live in Holland and have never been to our island, but their input would make you want to believe that this is all happening in their own back yard.
“This shows that within the Kingdom, we can work together based on trust, involvement and cooperation. These happen to be the positive behaviour support values of our school, and it could not be more fitting,” said Frederiks.
The Rotary Club funding will be used primarily for a comprehensive three-year plan that will focus on the training and development of staff, another crucial element that needs to be tackled to achieve a successful Exceptional School.
The Community Council and FCE have met and shared ideas for the future betterment of Middle Region.
“As a Community Council we are so excited about the possibility of this new school being built. We have been offered a room within the school compound in order for the Community Council to have a permanent location. Sister Marie Laurence School is a vital part of our community, and we will assist FCE however we can with this ambitious endeavour of creating the Exceptional School,” according to Chittick.
One of the first collaborative efforts of the Council and FCE was the sharing of ideas and expertise, which resulted in what was considered a “very productive” meeting with Fleur Hermanides of Cooperating Funds (Samenwerkende Fondsen).
Funding will be sought to assist the Community Council with its programmes and activities until the Exceptional School is built, if the funding request is approved.
Through the generosity of the Red Cross, the Council will be receiving a container that will serve as their headquarters in the interim.
“We love the energy of the Community Council. We are thrilled to be able to team up with this dynamic group of persons. Together with their positive commitment, we strongly feel that the new Exceptional School will serve as a beacon of hope for the district of Middle Region.
“Having a school within a district is a privilege, and a school deserves a dignified and respected position within the community. With this partnership, we aim to reach the various age groups of Middle Region and offer them opportunities for personal growth,” said Frederiks.
An information session will be held in the very near future, during which the two organisations can share their visions and ideas with the residents of Middle Region and Defiance.
Starting in August 2018, all pupils and teachers of Sister Marie Laurence School will be housed at Sister Magda and St. Dominic Primary Schools for the necessary construction to take place at their school.