Dec. 5, 2005 A mural of a shining light bulb in the passageway at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School says, "A Brighter Future." Though meant figuratively, it was literally true Monday as students attended their first classes in four new classrooms.
A fire destroyed the classrooms last November, and work on rebuilding them has run into numerous bureaucratic snags.
Although Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued a proclamation declaring public exigency to authorize the purchase of supplies and to make contractual agreements for the cleanup and reconstruction of Cancryn classrooms early last November, it took eight months and a two-day job action by teachers and students last January for the work to get under way. (See "Parents, Teachers Demand Action at Cancryn".)
Apex Construction began the work the last week in July. Lt. Governor Vargrave Richards, in his capacity as acting governor, said at the time that he had instructed the company to "proceed with a rigorous schedule, even if takes working day and night to complete repairs for the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year."
Though the classrooms opened three months after the school year started, that did not dim the spirits of the teachers and students in the spiffy new rooms Monday.
Eliezer Petersen, a seventh-grader in teacher Carol Ann Thompson's math class, had his own view of the new digs.
"The room reminds me of The Matrix movie it's so bright and white," Petersen said.
Thompson, who has taught at the school since 1979, was clearly delighted with the new classroom.
"We have been using a vocational education room," she said. "It's so nice to have a clean, bright class room of our own."
The rooms are larger, brighter and whiter. Cheerier. They have six fans, as opposed to the older classrooms, which have two. And they have screens to keep out mosquitoes, one of the many problems cited in January's protest.
Seventh-grader Romancia King pronounced the new rooms "cool." She wasn't being colloquial, however. "The old ones were too hot, this is fine," she said.
English teacher Hethline Toussaint said the larger space makes it more conducive to learning.
"The students are happier here," she said.
The new desks are larger, can seat even a six-footer comfortably and, in Thompson's class, were arranged conveniently in groups of three for a class project.
Taking an independent poll, the Source asked Toussaint's class to grade the new rooms. "Five hundred percent better," said one student. "At least 100 percent," said another. "Oh, about 50 percent," said yet another student, which got boos from her colleagues. "Theyre great," she said. "I was just kidding."
Geography teacher and student activist Wendy Diaz said occupying the new rooms was "bittersweet."
"The students are excited, they feel all eyes are on them now," she said. "But most of the students are still in the hot classrooms, the others don't have six fans."
Though Diaz was happy at the new environment, she said that everything promised has not yet been delivered.
"The students have just the one geography text," she said, "so they have to take lots of notes in class. They don't have a book to take home. The text is available on the Internet, but not all the students have computers at home."
Education Commissioner Noreen Michael has said the books are on the way, Cancryn Assistant Principal Ahmed Popo said Monday.
"But we haven't heard when they will be delivered," Popo said.
Michael was not available Monday for comment, and her secretary said the department's public relations representative was "on vacation."
Popo escorted a tour of the classrooms, obviously pleased at the progress, however late.
"The end room is for Physical Education classes," he said. "And we are using space which used to house a cistern for storage, an idea I thought of."
He said other locker spaces suffer from mold right now.
Myron Corbett, physical education teacher, was just getting desks installed Monday morning.
"We are extremely grateful for a nice, safe environment," he said. "We try to teach the students to appreciate what they have."
Popo said, "It's amazing what the physical plant can do. Everyone is energized, the students, the teachers."
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