It is 7 a.m. on Monday, January 7, 1991 and Negash Davidson, first former at Wolmer’s Boys’ School makes his trek to school, ready for a new term.
What he thought would be a regular day has been one of the most eventful in the school’s history. “As I turned the corner of Marescaux Road onto National Heroes Circle, I saw clouds of smoke coming from the direction of the assembly hall and when I reached the campus, students and teachers gathered and watched in distress as firefighters doused the flames,” Davidson recounted.
Twenty-four years later, Monday and Friday morning assemblies evoke mixed feelings among students who stand in the sun for the duration. However, at the same time they gladly meet graduates who are making a change.
“We have been without a suitable auditorium for 24 years and I am happy that the students will be out of the sun and rain for morning assembly as of May this year,” said Dr Walton Small, Principal.
Construction of the state-of-the-art facility started in August 2014 at a cost of $171-million under the guidance of an alumni-led team. The facility will cover 11,840 square feet, accommodate 2,300 students standing and 1,800 seated and will be available for use by Wolmer’s Girls’ and Wolmer’s Preparatory Schools as well as the Boys’ School.
Douglas Orane, Chairman of the fundraising committee noted that the auditorium seemed elusive to many, but it is no longer a dream. “Wolmer’s has helped to mould several influencers and we have been able to galvanise support within the local and international alumni communities, parents, corporate Jamaica, trustees, and friends of Wolmer’s in a push to construct a modern auditorium.”
“We need $34-million to complete the project and there are a range of intensive fundraising activities underway. One such initiative is a brick drive led by the Parent Teacher Association which allows donors to engrave a message on a brick for a minimum contribution of $10,000,” he said.
Architectural design is geared at sustainability as it includes natural ventilation for the main auditorium space in addition to a solar electricity system on the roof which will save the school approximately one-third of its energy bill. Additionally, water harvesting from the roof will lead to an underground tank which will augment the school’s water supply.
Dr Small is elated that the new facility will enrich the students’ experience.
“The auditorium will host school functions such as graduations, performances and assemblies. Furthermore, our students who play badminton, basketball and volleyball and participate in the performing arts will now have a new home,” he said.
The facility will be outfitted with a mezzanine floor inclusive of two meeting rooms which will be employed as additional teaching space.
Akeem Bennett, Head Boy commented, “It’s great to see how Wolmerians, parents, corporate bodies and friends of Wolmer’s have united to make this auditorium a reality. We are really delighted and can’t wait for the opening!”
Negash Davidson is equally excited about the auditorium and said, “We lost a lot of history with that fire, but we now have the opportunity to build and grow on what's to come. More importantly, this building will aid in the development of great future Wolmerians.”