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College blaze on Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:54 pm

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MONEAGUE, St Ann — Fire yesterday destroyed the entire multi-purpose block at the Moneague College in St Ann, leaving losses that could run into millions of dollars.
It was not ascertained up to late last night what was the caused the fire that destroyed the one-storey building that housed 13 offices, eight classrooms, a music room, photocopy room, storage area and bathrooms.
The multi-purpose block at the Moneague College in St Ann on fire last night. (Photos: Alesia Edwards)
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It took three units from the St Ann Fire Station and one from the Linstead Fire Station in St Catherine more than three hours to bring the blaze under control.
Reinoh Bartlett Spencer, the college's vice-principal in charge of academics, said the building, which was a heritage site, was not insured.
She said an emergency meeting will be called today to discuss the implications the fire is likely to have on the reopening of school.
She said, however, that they were not expecting any major delay to the reopening of school.
"I'm quite happy that only offices seem to have had serious loss now and some classrooms too, one of my concerns is that we are going to lose about six classrooms," Bartlett Spencer said.
Principal Howard Issacs, who is overseas, told the Observer last night in a telephone interview that he, too, did not expect the fire to cause much delay to the reopening of the institution in September.
"We are committed to doing everything to ensure that school reopens with as little delay as possible," Issac's said.
"We have had many challenges, and we are known to rise from the ash and we will rise again; it will impact on us, but we are committed to dealing with this challenge," he said.
Meanwhile, Bartlett Spencer said much of the records from the examination centres and other school files, as well as computers and other electrical appliances inside the building, were saved.
However, she said an assessment would have to be done to determine what were the items lost in the blaze.
The school's administrators last night, after an emergency staff meeting, said they were grateful the fire did not spread to the main administrative building.
The main administrative building is still in tact, all the major classrooms and our files are still in tact...," said acting vice-principal Jacqueline Thames.
A technical team from the education ministry is expected to visit the school today to assess the damage.
Education Minister Andrew Holness said, during a tour of the college last night, that the damage has been a significant loss to education and the country's heritage.
He said the ministry will be doing everything possible to ensure that school reopens in September.
"It will cause some delay; the school may have to shift its reopening date, but we will be doing everything at the ministry to ensure that school reopens in September," Holness said.
The education ministry said it was pleased with the level of support and assistance received from members of the community and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) who helped to secure the school's property.
Permanent Secretary Audrey Sewell said residents and the JDF should be commended for their effort.
Similar sentiments were expressed by member of Parliament for South East St Ann Lisa Hanna, who promised to work with the college to ensure it a swift return to normality.
The destroyed building once housed the Moneague Hotel which was constructed in the late 1890s for an agricultural exhibition at the time.
The Moneague College — a multi-disciplinary institution — operates under the auspices of the Joint Board of Teacher Education, the Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica, and the Ministry of Education.

Published: Monday, August 02, 2010 [Jamaica Observer]









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