New wrought iron gates welcome students to Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay in style.
Instead of a shabby chain link fence, new wrought-iron gates now welcome students to Guy Benjamin School in Coral Bay.
Crafted by welder Oscar Bridgewater of St. Thomas, the new gates bear the school’s initials and are just the latest in improvements seen at the Coral Bay public elementary school campus.
“It’s not just the gates,” said GBS Principal Dr. Whitman Browne. “When I went to my first PTO meeting this year, I realized that the entire campus was dark. I didn’t think that was good enough for the school, so we lit it up.”
Browne oversaw the installation of lighting across the GBS campus for safety and to facilitate night-time meetings, he explained.
The principal also did not like having the school’s entry gates swing into the road, he added.
“I didn’t like the idea of the gates swinging into the street and I thought we could do better than what we had,” said Browne. “I know a welder on St. Thomas who did some work for me in the past and he made them with the initials of the school.”
A new concrete swale along the roadway was also installed near the vehicle entrance gate at GBS, which should help alleviate flooding, Browne explained.
“We’ve put in the swale so the water from the road doesn’t run under the gate and into the school,” he said. “The water used to wash away the soil, and so preventing that will prevent the gate from being undermined. Also, the yard used to be very swampy so the swale should change that.”
While using Department of Education funds to pay for school improvements, Browne’s efforts to spruce up the GBS campus came without the help of DOE officials, he added.
“Historically, I’ve gotten so little help from the department as far as getting things done, I don’t bother,” he said.
“I call people I know who are competent and who get the job done. So I know that the job will be done and will be done well.”
“For example, when I first came here at the beginning of the year, there was a broken urinal in the boys’ bathroom,” said the principal. “DOE came out and looked at it and after six weeks, they had not returned. So I had someone come out and fix it and when DOE finally came back, it was already fixed.”
Browne’s campus improvement efforts are about more than just improving school grounds, he explained.
“To me the school is not just the learning environment,” said Browne. “You are also talking about the physical environment of the school and that should be welcoming.”
“That is one of the things that I’m trying to do here is make the children comfortable and happy because the school looks good,” the GBS principal added.