By SANCHESKA BROWN
Tribune Staff Reporter
IT REMAINS unclear whether teachers at Anatol Rodgers will return to the classroom today, two days after they staged a sit-in over complaints of health risks at the secondary school.
Scores of teachers refused to return to their classrooms on Monday and Tuesday, protesting what they described as mould in the classrooms and toxic smoke surrounding the campus.
President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson, told The Tribune yesterday the teachers will meet with the principal today and the outcome of that meeting will determine whether or not classes resume as usual.
“The teachers, along with myself, met with people from the Department of Environmental Health yesterday to discuss our issues and school was dismissed at noon. The teachers also drafted a letter to the principal requesting a meeting with her on what improvements will be done and to give them a status report,” she said.
“The teachers will be there at 8.45am in the staff room waiting on their update.”
According to the teachers, mould is growing in a number of the classrooms adding to health problems they are already experiencing from smoke emanating from a derelict vehicle site, located directly behind the school.
Minister of Education Jerome Fitzgerald said yesterday that he has heard about the issues and is working to get them resolved.
“There are two issues facing Anatol. One is the ongoing situation with the fire that continues to burn on and off again and the impact it is having on the school.
“We have addressed that matter internally some weeks ago with regard to how we deal with the teachers and what the ministry is prepared to do and the union and us came to an agreement with regard to that,” he said.
“From another point, we have to make contact with the persons who are managing that site to find out why it is that it is still burning. We have to ensure that this does not happen in the future.
“With regard to the mould, I must say that I met with the president of the union 10 days ago and we discussed many matters at length and the issue of mould at Anatol Rodgers did not come up, and so I was surprised when she made the issue the way it is.
“Nonetheless, now that we are fully aware of the seriousness of the claim, we are addressing it.
“The ministry of environment has been involved and is engaged. The minister, who I just spoke to, confirmed that he will send me his initial report with regard to it and will determine what type of mould it is, what we need to do to address it and we will act very swiftly to address that. We are very concerned about the mould, I can tell you that.”
In response, Mrs Wilson said she did not bring the matter up with Mr Fitzgerald because she only found out about it on Monday.
She added that it is not the union’s job to inform the minister of what is happening in his schools.
Mr Fitzgerald also denied reports that the level of violence at Anatol Rodgers has gotten out of hand, and that the students cannot be controlled.
He said: “I heard the president of the union talk about an issue with regard to violence yesterday but I am not aware of excessive violence at Anatol or any other school.
“As a matter of fact, I think since September if you talk to most school administrators they will tell you that most schools have been relatively peaceful compared to what they have been in the past.
“So there has been no spike in violent behaviour. We have had outbreaks here and there and we have dealt with those as best as we can, but for the most part as far as safety of the students and teachers and administrators, we are satisfied how things have gone this school year.”