Starting this September, Old Harbour High will commence the phasing out of its two-shift system and will fully operate as a single shift by 2016.
This was disclosed by Principal Lynton Weir during a past students association meeting recently held on the school’s ground.
“While principals have been getting results from the shift system we can get better results if the students are not on the shift system. Currently for us (morning shift) school starts at 7:00 am and finishes at 12:10 pm. That does not mean that our students had five hours and 10 minutes of instructional time. Our students only have three hours and 45 minutes of instructional time because half-an-hour is for break; while we say 10 minutes for devotion it never finish in 10 minutes it always go for half-an-hour, then by the time they change classes and all of that that takes another half-an-hour,” Weir expounded afterwards.
“If you go full day, our students will get more contact time,” he continued. “They are going to get a minimum of four-and-a-half to five hours of contact time.”
Shift system became popular during the 1970s due to the government’s thrust to advance education among the populace at the time. And in an effort to get as many Jamaicans, majority of which were poor and uneducated, the shift system was a popular choice.
Decades later, however, what was seen as the best thing then, given the circumstance, is now a major stumbling block in terms of enhancing the nation’s educational and intellectual capacity.
“The full day allows us to have greater participation in sports and so on. So the students are able to stay back to train. A lot of parents, especially when the kids are on the afternoon shift, they not allowing them to participate in sport, because by the time school finishes at 5:20 pm before you know it it’s six o’clock and six o’clock is night. But if school finishes at 2:40 pm then a lot of parents will allow their kids to participate in extra-curricular activities. Extra-curricular activities are very important because you don’t want to have a ‘straight jacket’ academian. You want to have a rounded student,” added Weir following the meeting to resuscitate the school’s alumni body.
Work on phase one of the project commences this month and will see installation of over 35 new classrooms and an additional administrative unit when the development completes two years from now. But the transition won’t be easy, Weir stated.
“There are some principals who have taken the decisions and who are working from within and using their own resources to take themselves from off the shift system. With us at Old Harbour High our school is a massive school, its 2,500 students, so it’s not easy for us to get off the shift system,” the principal said. “But for this September we should have 11 new classrooms. What we are already looking at is to have our senior school off first, especially our exam group which is our grade 11s. So we going to push to see if we can accommodate all the grade 11s having full-day school and then by 2016 we should be having a total of 38 new classrooms because that’s what we need to get us off the shift system. So for 2016 we will be a full day school.”
The 11 new classrooms will be built atop Block A, which is the school’s administrative block, while the Science and Business blocks also will be extended in the second phase. There’s going to be further expansion to what was the “old Grandstand” to accommodate more classrooms as well as an administrative department.
“One of the things at Old Harbour High is that we have the space. What we don’t have is the resources. But the ministry has decided to come on board,” Weir, an Old Harbour High old boy, said.
However, arguing with in mind the rapid development of Old Harbour now taking place, Weir highlighted the need for the construction of a new high school in St Catherine South West, which he said must be a high priority of government and all other stakeholders.