Union Gardens Foundation Announces Multi-Million Dollar School Building Project

Directors of the Union Gardens Foundation have unveiled plans for a state of the art infant school to be built in the Southwest St. Andrew community of Union Gardens.  At a function to launch the project, held at the Jamaica Pegasus on Wednesday March 4, Foundation directors Glen Christian and Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson unveiled an artist’s impression of the 11,000 square foot facility which will serve 150 students aged 3 to 6 years.  The event was attended by Member of Parliament, Prime Minister Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites both of whom endorsed the project.

The new school will feature large, airy classrooms with adjoining bathrooms, a spacious auditorium, covered walkway-linked buildings with play areas, and landscaped common areas.  Announcing that construction will begin this month, Mr. Christian said the Foundation was collaborating with the Ministry of Education to ensure that all would be in place to receive the first cohort of students in September.

Construction of the Union Gardens infant school is projected to cost in the region of $120M. With a little under half that sum already committed by various organizations, the Foundation is targeting other companies, donor organizations, and members of the Jamaican diaspora as co-sponsors.  When completed, the school will be turned over to the Ministry of Education.   However the school will continue to receive private sector support such as free transportation for students to and from school, computer equipment, and extra-curricular activities such as tennis lessons for students.

The Union Gardens school will replicate the model of the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School/Centre of Excellence constructed in 2010 in Brandon Hill, Clarendon by the Cari-Med & Kirk Distributors Foundation.  The school, with a population of just over 100 students, is the only early childhood institution to have been designated a Centre of Excellence by the Ministry of Education.  In 2014, it earned designers, Taylor Architects, recognition by the Jamaican Institute of Architects with the Governor General’s Award for Architecture, as well as the Award of Merit in the Public and Institutional Category.

The idea for building a similar school in an urban setting was born in 2013, when the management team of Kirk Distributors Limited (KDL), one of the companies owned by Glen Christian, was seeking to identify a meaningful project in one of the communities nearby its offices.   In their discussions with representatives of Union Gardens, it emerged that the community was in dire need of a suitable early childhood learning facility.  Mr. Christian was confident that the project could be successfully replicated in Union Gardens.  He set about selling the idea to others in the business community and soon a small committee of business leaders came together who envisioned, not only an infant school in Union Gardens, but similar schools across Jamaica based on the Evelyn Mitchell model of public-private sector partnerships.

Directors of the Union Gardens Foundation Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, and chairman, Glen Christian present Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller with an artist’s rendition of a $150M infant school to be built in the Southwest St. Andrew community of Union Gardens. The occasion was the launch of the Union Gardens School-building Project on Wednesday, March 4, at the Jamaica Pegasus, at which Foundation members outlined plans for the construction of the infant school which will serve 150 students aged 3-6 years. domain seo The school will replicate the model of the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School which was built by Glen Christian and handed over to the Ministry of Education in 2010. Evelyn Mitchell is the only early childhood institution that has been designated a centre of excellence by the Ministry of Education.

As a result, in 2014, the Union Gardens Foundation was established to guide the development of the Union Gardens infant school project and similar initiatives. The Foundation is a duly registered charitable organization under the 2013 Charities Act.

The Union Gardens Foundation is led by a Board of Directors comprised of Glen Christian (Chairman); Gary ‘Butch’ Hendrickson, Chairman of National Baking Company;  Melanie Subratie, Vice Chairman of Musson (Jamaica) Limited; Howard Mitchell, Chairman of Corrpak Jamaica Ltd., and immediate past chairman of the National Housing Trust; and Simone Murdock,  Group Marketing Executive of Kingston Wharves Limited.

Commitments of cash and kind to date have come from Cari-Med & Kirk Distributors Foundation, National Baking Company Foundation, Seprod Limited, the Sandals Foundation, Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS), Kingston Wharves Ltd., Jamaica National Building Society, Stewart Industrial, BH Paints, CHASE Fund, Arc Manufacturing, and Delta Supplies Limited.