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Ground broken for new FBE School

Heyliger asserts government’s commitment to education

St. Maarten – Acting Prime Minister Theodore Heyliger has pledged that the budgets of the future will reflect the government’s commitment to education by allowing for the construction of more facilities and to give teachers the tools they need. He made the pledge at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Foundation Based Education School that will be built in Cay Hill.
According to Heyliger the government’s commitment includes building schools in every district. That starts this year with the construction of the new FBE School, the coming ground breaking for the Secondary Vocational Education School (SBO) – which will also be in Cay Hill – and a school in Belvedere. The first two projects represent an investment of 15 million guilders.
“I always attempt to remain humble and from whence I came and I know that our schools are molding a new prime minister. Our government stands committed to education and without putting the Minister of Finance on the spot, I can promise you that our budgets of the future will reflect that commitment, including putting schools in each district, instead of just one central area. This investment is so we can provide good facilities for our teachers and a great future for our children,” Heyliger said.
Shigemoto said later, “It’s always great to see projects in education because the youth truly are the future.”
The construction of the new FBE School, which will be done by Taliesin Construction and managed by the Foundation for Protestant Education, is an investment of 7.8 million guilders. Some 7.291 million guilders is for the construction of the building. Construction is expected to take 18 months. PREAM Consultants, who did the architectural design, will do the project supervision. Once completed in 2012 the school will have 16 classrooms and accommodate 400 students. Half of the students at the new school (200) will move from the Hillside Christian School, which is also managed by the Foundation for Protestant Education, and the other half will be new students. There are currently 600 students in three schools at Hillside. There is also an area for early childhood and the school will have a gym.
Director of Innovations Angela Dekker believes the start of construction is a sign that partnership and continuity are alive and well here. The example she gave was that former Commissioner of Education and now Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams signed the protocol with the Dutch Government for Phase two of the implementation of the innovations in education program, which opened the door for the project to be funded, former Education Commissioner William Marlin signed the design contracts with PREAM Consulting and now Education Minister Rhoda Arrindell has signed the construction agreement and broken ground on the facility. Heyliger was also involved in the project, being the one to negotiate the land transfer with the Government of the Netherlands Antilles and working to secure the building permit for the project.
“This is proof together that we can make it. The school board, school managers and teachers were involved from the very beginning and while there were some problems at first we got over all the stumbling blocks together,” Dekker said.
One of the upsets along the way was getting to the Dutch government to agree to finance the gym at the school. The facility is primarily for the new school, but others will also have the opportunity to use it.
“That was a fight. The Dutch asked: You’re going to build gyms on St. Maarten? And we said yes. Because without the physical education, learning does not go well,” Dekker said.
The Education Minister also stressed on the collaborative effort that it took to get the project to this stage and said she takes only some of the credit.
“There’s a lot we can do when we work together and while I accept the credit for my part in this I also give credit to those who have worked on this before. I also have to say we’re looking at your school as a benchmark where certain practices can be duplicated and used at other schools,” Arrindell said.
Asha Stevens-Mohabir and Albert Snijders, who co-founded the Hillside Christian School, glowed with joy that the project is starting.
“This is a joyful moment. It took perseverance and commitment for us to get here and we have partnerships that can never be forgotten. Once this school open and the 200 students come marching into “the eagle” I promise that we will provide quality education from teachers who are performing well, because we believe in excellence,” Stevens-Mohabir said.
Snijders added, “We have grown by leaps and bounds. This was not an easy journey, but it was worth it.”

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