Montego Bay High School
Montego Bay High School was established in 1935 by the Government of Jamaica because the parish of St. James had no high school for girls. It was the first Government owned high school for girls to be established on the island. The school is controlled by the Ministry of Education with a local Board of Management.
St. Helena’s High School, which was a private school run by the Anglican Church and situated at 46 Market Street had been closed due to the lack of funding. It was said that things got so bad financially that the Custos of St. James at time, Sir Francis Kerr-Jarrett, had to take money from his pocket to pay the teachers. He, along with Archdeacon E. S. Harrison of the Anglican Church, and the Hon. Phillip Lightbody who was the sitting member of the Legislative Council, petitioned the Government to start a school for girls. In response to that plea, the property named Beaconsfield at 51 Union Street was bought. It consisted of a two-story house and outbuildings situated on approximately two acres of land. Because of the name of the property, the school became known as Beaconsfield School and the girls were affectionately called “Beacs” girls. Students from St. Helena were relocated to this new school, which was officially named by the Government, Montego Bay High School for Girls. The link with the Anglican Church was maintained. Archdeacon Harrison was the first Board Chairman, and the student body attended the service at the St. James Parish Church on the first Sunday of each term.
Under the able leadership of Miss Blanche Jeffrey-Smith, the school began with forty students (40) and three teachers. It was established with the aim of developing in its students, mental alertness, physical health, spiritual consciousness, and a sense of responsibility, so that they would grow up to be self-reliant individuals capable of earning their own livelihood while serving the community to the best of their ability. The school also aimed at helping students achieve a high level of academic performance and discipline. Both the curriculum of the school and its extra-curricular activities were geared towards achieving these aims.
At that time, students were prepared for two English-based examinations, the Junior and Senior Cambridge Examinations. The Junior Cambridge was taken at the end of the upper fourth year and Senior at the end of the upper fifth year. The school did not enter enough candidates to have its own center, so the girls wrote their examinations in the dining room at Cornwall College along with the boys from that institution. The Higher School Certificate was introduced in 1949, and the first set of students sat their examinations in 1950. At that time, some of the sixth form students had classes with the boys at Cornwall College for some subjects and some of the boys came to Montego Bay High School. The school had no laboratories, so it was fortunate that at that time, the practical work for the Cambridge Examinations was annual. Most of our graduate teachers were from the United Kingdom, as the University of the West Indies came into being in the fifties. The 1940s were on the whole, uncertain: there was indecision as to whether the school would continue its independent existence or be amalgamated with Cornwall College. During that decade, the leadership of the school kept changing - there was Miss Ritchie (who later became Mrs. Croskery), Mrs. Marjorie Grahame, and Mrs. Janet Morrison who kept changing places for a while, but each later held the post for extended periods.
Dr. Herbert Morrison was well known to all students up to the early eighties. He offered free medicals each term and provided medication for minor illnesses, free of cost. He also provided lunch money, shoes, books, and bus fares for needy students.
Mr. Clifford DeLisser who was at one time a member of the School Board, donated a bus to the school. This was a boom to the poorer students living in the out-lying districts of Monte go Bay. He also contributed heavily to the school’s lunch program in the sixties.
The student body increased and so the need arose for new buildings to be erected. The present Needlework room was erected in the forties and provided two classrooms. The present second form block was erected soon after and later, the outdoor stage made way for the teachers’ hostel with two classrooms on the ground floor. In 1955, two temporary buildings were erected: one of bamboo and the other of aluminum. The former was called “Tatoo” and the latter the “Oasis.” The “Tattoo” was pulled down in the late fifties to make way for what is now known as the Main Building which contains administrative offices, staff room and lounge, Chemistry, Biology and Food and Nutrition Laboratories, Art Room, twelve classrooms, sanitary facilities and a large auditorium which seats approximately one thousand which the balconies are used. Mrs. Janet Morrison was the incumbent Headmistress when this building was constructed. In the decade of the eighties, the PTA and Past Students Associations spearheaded the erection of another building and so the aluminum structure gave way to the building which houses a Library, Physics and Computer Laboratories, a cafeteria and the Bursar’s office, along with sanitary facilities and storerooms. The Ministry of Education has recently added two classrooms to make room for a large number of grade nine students who were admitted this year.
The student body increased and so the need arose for additional buildings that took place gradually and in 1955, two temporary buildings were erected. They were replaced by what is now known as the Main Building which contains administrative offices, staff room and lounge, Chemistry, Biology and Food and Nutrition Laboratories, Art Room, classrooms, sanitary facilities and a large auditorium which seats approximately one thousand when the balconies are used. Mrs. Janet Morrison was the incumbent Headmistress when this building was constructed.
In the eighties, the PTA and Past Students Associations spearheaded the erection of another building which houses a Library, Physics, and Computer Laboratories, a cafeteria and the Bursar’s office, sanitary facilities and storerooms.
The school has maintained a record of academic excellence and the results in external examinations regularly exceed the national average. On several occasions, students have been awarded for outstanding performance in the CXC examinations. There is no longer a sixth form as the ‘A’ Level classes and the Commercial Sixth were transferred to the Montego Bay Community College when it opened in 1978. The school boasts an exceptionally strong program of extra-curricular activities and musical aptitude spearheaded by some the most dedicated teachers in Jamaica. The school has the capacity to house over nine hundred students. Mr. Gairy Powell is the Acting Principal.
The school has maintained an outstanding level of academic excellence and the results regularly exceed the national average particularly in the CXC examinations.
The school boasts an exceptionally strong program of extra-curricular activities, and this has developed leadership qualities in the students, many of whom have been elected to positions of leadership in Sixth Form Schools or at universities.
Approximately 900 and a staff complement of thirty-seven (37) including the Guidance Counselor and a Nurse.
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