A Brief History of Port Antonio High School
The now Port Antonio High School has been through a series of transformation. Its name has been changed from: Senior School/Technical Institute in 1960 to Port Antonio Secondary then New Secondary; Port Antonio Junior Secondary between 1975-1993; Port Antonio Comprehensive High in 1993-1999 and presently The Port Antonio High School.
The school was initially a part of the Titchfield Elementary School. In 1960 the lower school came to this location where it was renamed Port Antonio Senior School. The school opened its doors in January 1960 with Mr. C.M Robinson as Principal and Mrs. Bessie Beckford as Vice-Principal. The uniform then was blue tunic and white blouse for the girls while the boys wore khaki pants and shirt, with brown or black shoes.
The school started with three (3) buildings, the present Grade 7 block was where the then grade 8s and 9s were housed. The auditorium, canteen and the Home Economics Block which facilitated the Cookery and Child Care Centres. Art & Craft was done in the room now occupied by Beauty Culture/Cosmetology. The Library was situated at the back of the auditorium which is presently called the ’box’ and is presently the Technical Drawing Room. The plan also had the Administrative Block which housed the Principal’s Office, Staff Room, Science Lab and the Commercial Institute that offered Shorthand, Typing, Commerce and Accounts. The section used then as the Commercial Institute is now the present Staff Room. This completed the 3 major buildings the school began with.
The girls did the Commercial subjects; the Vocational Institute which was designed for boys, formed a part of the original structures built by Busha Smart. Skills offered in that department were Auto Mechanics, Carpentry and Joinery, Metal Work, Plumbing and Wood Work. The training offered was of such high standard that the business community in the parish was eager to employ the students who completed the program at the Institute, consequently the numbers quickly escalated. Students’ matriculated to the Institute after passing the Grade Nine (9) Achievement Test. The Institution itself was a regional pilot project which got its selection of students from Portland, St. Thomas and parts of St. Andrew. It is to be noted that there were only three (3) such schools in the island at the time, located in Kingston, Montego Bay and here in Port Antonio. The program mirrors former Prime Minister Michael Manley’s Self Reliance ideologies of providing skills training for a young population to help themselves and to sustain the labour market.
The rapid growth of the school’s population and the need for more space were some factors that caused the school to change from a one shift system to two shifts in September 1973. As the population grew, so did the need for additional classroom space, and so, the initial contractor Busha Smart was re-summoned to build two (2) additional blocks; Block A and B. Block A housed the Science Lab, Art Department and Business Education Department and Block B originally housed the Plumbing, Electrical Installation, Library and Book Room, with the second floor having three (3) classrooms.
It is said that the now Student Affairs Administration Section was built by the first principal Mr. C.M Robinson who personally funded the project. The building then was a long one roomed section, which today is divided into three (3) sections and house the offices of the Bursar, Assistant Bursar and the Students’ Affairs Department. What was initially a walk-way and garage for Mr. Robinson has also been converted to another office section for the typist and other administrative assistants.
The efforts of all who have contributed to the development of the school (teachers, administrative staff and others) is greatly appreciated. We hope that ‘each and every one of us ’ will make our own positive mark(s) as we pass through this noble institution.
By: Angella Valentine (Culture Agent) & H.O.D (General Studies Department )