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Hattieville site nearing completion, principal thrilled for new preschool

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kali Gradishar
  • 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern)
Completion on a new preschool building the Hattieville Government School in Hattieville, Belize, is estimated for mid-June, and the school's principal and staff are ready to put the new facility to use.

The school is one of four schools in Belize receiving new facilities as part of New Horizons Belize 2014, an exercise that provides Belize Defence Force and U.S. military civil engineers training opportunities while constructing new facilities throughout the country.

"This has really come at an opportune time because the [Belize] Ministry of Education is making an effort to push more resources and emphasis on early childhood education," said Hattieville principal Rodney Griffith. "What happens in these formative years will chart the course for the rest of their lives.

"This project is welcomed and something the community will benefit from greatly," said Griffith, the principal at the school for the last four years.

Members of the BDF Light Engineer Company continue to work alongside U.S. Air Force, Army and Marine Corps engineers as they build the 11-room structure, which will include two preschool classrooms, five bathrooms, two administrative rooms, a kitchen and a mechanical room.

Construction for the facility is on schedule, if not ahead.

"We arrived April 2, and since then everything has gone pretty smooth," said U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Steven Ernst. "It's not where I expected to be; I actually expected it to take longer."

The classrooms in the new facility will be utilized by the two preschool teachers currently on staff and will house the nearly 40 preschool students attending the school.

"We do cherish and honor [the BDF and the U.S. military] being here to provide us with the space for these preschoolers," said Griffith. "I'm very happy for the students and teachers to have this new facility with all the comforts of a spacious building, instead of the cramped one they currently use.

"It will be better especially during the rainy season so they can still do activities indoors when it's raining," he said.

Rain has been one of the potential concerns for delays at the construction site. Once the roof is complete, however, progress can still be made on the interior if or when the rains come.

"I do expect the building to be complete no later than 16 June, with a positive outlook for 6 June depending on the weather. Weather is going to be our biggest challenge," said Ernst, a first-time project manager for the duration of a project. "When the rains do come, we make sure the slope of the dirt is away from the building to avoid water issues."

Construction has gone faster than expected due to the hard work and dedication of the BDF and U.S. military engineers being willing to learn skills outside of their normal duties.

"The engineers have picked up skills faster than expected, and we were able to condense our work schedule by a few weeks," Ernst said. "The biggest thing is it's a multi-craft site. I had electricians and plumbers that I expected to move, manage and lay block; and I had structures engineers helping with the electrical layout.

"Everyone here has helped make sure we met the timeline we set," he added.

While it's possible the building will be complete before this school year is over, it will still need to be prepped and furnished for the teachers and students. However, the facility will certainly be ready for the students as the next school year starts in September. Once the new facility is in use, the old preschool building will still have a useful purpose for the school and the community.

"The plan is subject to change once I retire, but hopefully the PTA and the staff will continue to support the old preschool becoming a community library and resource center for this school's students and also the high school students," said Griffith, who retires at the end of this school year. "My only regret is that I will no longer be here at the school to see the new building in use. It's just very exciting."