New TN Tatem teacher falls ill
Mould at a middle school has made teachers sick, the shadow education minister claimed yesterday.
A source at TN Tatem Middle School backed up the claim and the One Bermuda Alliance’s Cole Simons questioned if pupils at the school had suffered similar problems.
Mr Simons said that a teacher, who has since left the school because of her illness, was forced to wear a mask at work after she contracted bronchitis sparked by mould.
He added that a replacement had taken over from former teacher in January, and had also been affected by breathing problems.
Mr Simons said: “She was not aware of the challenges faced by the previous teacher in the same classroom, and she is now faced with similar bronchial attacks.”
A source at the Warwick school confirmed that a teacher had left because of health problems and that her replacement had experienced “similar, but early symptoms”.
Mr Simons and the source were speaking yesterday after the school was evacuated over health and safety fears.
Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said on Tuesday that the school would be closed yesterday and today.
She said the closure came after education officials got a letter from the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.
Requests for comment sent to the president and vice-president of the PTSA were not responded to by press time yesterday.
Ms Richards said that the Cabinet safety and health official was expected to carry out inspections at the school yesterday morning.
Mr Simons said: “We have tests after tests performed by the Government’s health and safety officers, water consultants and other local and international consultants.
“The scale of the problem has been identified and well defined, but Government’s remediation plans are not working. As a consequence, our students and teachers continue to be at risk.”
Mr Simons said he understood that 12 teachers and three pupils had reported health and safety concerns to the education ministry.
He said that the school was in a “chronic state and needs immediate attention and lasting remediation plans”.
Mr Simons added: “Just lowering the levels of mould to acceptable levels and respective species counts is not good enough as this only addresses the symptoms of the problem and does not address the root cause.”
He said that a proper remediation plan had to be created or the school must be “repurposed”.
Mr Simons added: “This state of affairs just cannot be allowed to continue.”
The TN Tatem closure was the latest in a string of mould incidents at the school.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education insisted in February that the school was “safe for teaching and learning”.
She said then: “While there may be some ongoing minor challenges, the school’s administration, with the steadfast backing of the ministry and Department of Education and the full support of the Minister of Education, will continue to make the safety, health and wellbeing of teachers and students alike, a top priority.”
The spokeswoman was speaking a day after education officials revealed that a room at the school had been closed “for an extended period of time” after “potential mould” was found.
The ministry said that a mould assessment programme by Bermuda Water Consultants would start on February 18.
The independent firm’s report said that the “root cause of the current and past problems of excessive mould and poor indoor air quality ... is directly related to inadequate routine and general maintenance at the facility”.
It added: “The issues that we noted today are the same issues which we noted back in 2013 and are the same issues that closed the school in 2017.”
The report highlighted six causes for the mould and air-quality problems, including water leaks and faulty windows, as well as “inadequate housekeeping”.
TN Tatem staff and pupils in December 2016 were forced to relocate to Clearwater Middle School, St David’s, for several weeks amid health fears.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.