By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Department of Environmental Health Services has determined that mould was not the “principle problem” identified at CH Reeves Junior High School as classes resumed on schedule yesterday.
A DEHS certificate of approval obtained by The Tribune instead lists the major issues as the “practices of some teachers and students,” the “absence of an effective house-keeping programme,” and “the need for an improved treatment and building maintenance programme by the Ministry of Education”.
The Frank Hanna Cleaning Company was contracted for the operation, which began last Friday and concluded on Sunday.
However, Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) president Belinda Wilson still maintains that mould is indeed the “main issue” at the school.
“Well I turned the report over to the union’s attorney but we are asking private companies to look at the report,” Mrs Wilson told The Tribune.
“Not sure that the report deals with mould remediation and Frank Hanna Cleaning Company and janitorial staff do not clean mould,” she continued. “We requested and the ministry agreed for a private assessment. Mould is the main issue at the campus.”
However, she did say the union is “pleased” by the cleaning done by the contracted company.
In recent months, CH Reeves has been a campus of much contention as a litany of over 20 issues, including mould, culminated in the teachers engaging in a sit out at one point last term.
However, despite previous threats that industrial action would continue into the new semester, yesterday morning school resumed as normal. The Tribune was on site as the students and teachers alike returned to the campus.
Many guardians expressed hope that this semester would run smoother, noting that ultimately the children are the victims in this dispute between the Ministry of Education and the BUT.
Mrs Wilson confirmed that all teachers returned to school yesterday in “good faith” and listed the many concerns that were addressed, including roof repairs and the completion of the new 11-classroom block.
According to the DEHS certificate, “the thorough cleaning of all classrooms” and “the treatment of rodents and termites” were two of the DEHS’ recommendations provided in a January 3 report.
The DEHS certificate also notes it is awarded “once the director of DEHS is sufficiently satisfied that the works carried out at facility(s) meets with standards set forth by DEHS.”
While Mrs Wilson admitted the ministry did a “good job” addressing the matters, the BUT is “still concerned about the mould testing results, which was to be done by a private analyst as we have not accepted the Department of Environmental Health report,” she said.
Mrs Wilson reiterated the ministry agreed to use a private company but did not, adding this matter will be addressed at the Department of Labour next week.
“However we are pleased that the school was cleaned by Frank Hanna Cleaning Company and the janitresses,” Mrs Wilson continued. “The school was painted. The teachers were able to move into the new 11 classroom block. All of the furniture was not provided but the teachers and the union will give the ministry an opportunity to get the remainder of the desks and chairs for teachers and students. A pump for the water is to be installed today which should improve the water pressure for the restrooms.
“The science laboratory pipes were unclogged but they are still awaiting faucets. The roof is said to have been repaired but the true test will come when it rains. The school was exterminated yesterday (Sunday) so the union expects the Ministries of Education and Health to ensure that the dead rats and rodents would be properly disposed of.
“So the teachers have in good faith returned to the classrooms with the expectation that the Ministry of Education will complete the reminder of the work,” Mrs Wilson said.
Some teachers and parents yesterday morning spoke to reporters yesterday morning about the saga at the school.
Many parents complained about the school’s lack of communication with them throughout this ordeal and expressed concern about the impact these issues are having on their children’s academic performance.
“They (the children) are the victims,” one guardian said. “If they (were) entitled to certain amount of learning, and the school is outing early, and they’re not getting it…what results you want from them?”
Dwight Miller, the father of an eighth-grade student, said the situation at the school needs to be fixed.
“It’s affecting him (my son) that every time I drop him to school, he calls me right back so I have to leave work and come back and get him,” Mr Miller said. “They can do better…It’s really bad that I have to leave work…it needs to be fixed.”