Education Minister Diallo Rabain pulled an about-face today, when he announced that after all was said and done, the Government’s decision to close West End Primary and St David’s Primary Schools has been reversed.

Today’s decision will eventually see the closure of Somerset Primary School instead.

Speaking at a news conference at St David’s Primary School, the Minister acknowledged the recent backlash on the delayed announcement, saying: “We recognise that these decisions took longer than expected and appreciate your patience.”

Moving forward, he said the Government “worked diligently to ensure that our decisions were fair and well-informed while remaining sensitive to the impact of these outcomes on all stakeholders”.

To those disappointed by the decision, he added: “We understand that despite robust advocacy, this final decision may not align with every school community’s hopes. However, the process has been one of careful consideration and meticulous evaluation, guided by a commitment to fairness and the best outcomes for our educational system and our children.

“However, this does not diminish those educational institutions’ contribution to those communities and our country. In the weeks ahead, we will accept expressions of Interest for the Educational History and Legacy Committee. This committee will be empowered to work closely with all of our primary school families to ensure that while those schools may not be a part of our system in the future, their history will never be erased or forgotten.”

Based on the history and legacy assessment, West End Primary School scored “slightly higher” than Somerset Primary School.

“Therefore, the parish primary school for Sandys will be located at the West End Primary School site,” it said.

It was also noted that “further discussions after the rescoring process resulted in the decision to redevelop the St David’s Primary School site into an additional parish primary school for St George’s parish”.

The rescoring process was prompted by public backlash over the initial school closure criteria.

One of the first to celebrate the news was St David’s Primary, where a spokesperson said the school’s PTA and community welcomed today’s announcement to reverse its earlier decision.

“The school’s 131-year history and heritage, especially its significance as the Island’s first integrated school and its importance as a community hub,” was also noted.

“A ‘Keep Our School Open’ petition launched by the group has since received more than 1,800 signatures.”

St David’s Primary School PTA President, Ms Kelly Pitcher thanked the Minister “for taking into consideration the importance of history and heritage when it comes to deciding which schools should remain open and on behalf of the PTA”.

“I’d like to thank the History and Legacy Working Group for listening to our reasons for keeping St David’s Primary School open. I’d also like to thank our headmaster, Mr Gladstone Thompson and his team, who have worked so hard over many years to ensure our East End children receive the best possible education.

“St. David’s Primary School a remarkable school that has produced many remarkable people and we hope it will continue to serve this community for many years to come, as it has for the past 131 years.”

President of St David’s Cricket Club, Ms Ceble Crockwell added: “We’ve said from day one that St David’s Primary sits right at the heart of our communi-ty because for us, it’s not just about providing an education – St David’s Primary has created a whole group of people who care about this community and who make sure that our young people are safe and cared for. The school has instilled the values and standards in generations of St David’s islanders that we still hold true today and which makes this the proud and unique community that we are.”

Members of the Keep Our School Open group include: Ms Ceble Crockwell, Ms Kelly Pitcher, Dr Carlton Crockwell, Dr Henry Dowling, Mr Russell Richardson; Mrs Doris Foley, Mr Maurice Foley and Mrs Elizabeth Deacon.

West End Warriors spokesperson Ellen-Kate Horton stated that the final outcome “was the correct one as expected”.

“We the West End Warriors are thankful. I am sorry that it has taken approximately three years to get here.”

Meanwhile, Shadow Minister of Education, Ben Smith said: “After causing unnecessary angst for over a year, it [the Government] does a turnabout on the decisions to close two schools — what a waste of taxpayers’ dollars.

“Those who supported the schools staying open can celebrate today but the minister should not pat himself or his colleagues on the back for the result. The pressure applied forced him to cave in and political survival was his decision-maker,” he added.

As it stands now, the confirmed parish primary schools are:

• Sandys: West End Primary School

• Southampton: Dalton E Tucker Primary School

• Warwick: Purvis Primary School

• Paget: Paget Primary School

• Pembroke: West Pembroke Primary and Victor Scott Primary schools

• Devonshire: Elliot Primary School

• Smith’s: Harrington Sound Primary School

• Hamilton Parish: Francis Patton Primary School

• St George’s: East End Primary and St David’s Primary schools