End of the road for TN Tatem
TN Tatem Middle School has been permanently closed.
Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said all of the island’s public middle school students will now be accommodated in four middle schools.
Mr Rabain held talks with staff from the Warwick public school and middle school principals in separate meetings at CedarBridge Academy on Wednesday.
He said that a meeting with TN Tatem parents was cancelled “due to lack of attendance”.
The minister told a press conference: “The decision is being communicated to them today in writing.
“They will also be invited to send any questions about the decision to the ministry.”
He said the four remaining schools could cope with the move because of a decrease of enrolment in the public school system, meaning staffing levels and physical space would be adequate.
However, a former TN Tatem teacher said that it was not “in the best interest of our children to have 25 students in a classroom”.
Mr Rabain was also guarded on whether more public schools would be closed in the future.
He said that the closure decision came after a “difficult process for many in our community, including students, staff, parents and alumni”.
Mr Rabain said that a total of 25 people had turned up for five consultation meetings held between November 8 and December 20, last year.
The ministry received 53 responses on a 29-page consultation document released last November, which said that a temporary closure had shown middle school pupils could be accommodated in the other four middle schools.
It added: “Enrolment at the time of the temporary closure, as well as the continued system-wide decrease in enrolment, indicate that TN Tatem Middle School is no longer required to serve as a middle school.”
A decision on the school had been expected by January 29, but was delayed by a grievance last month.
The minister explained: “I decided to delay making a decision on TN Tatem until I was able to consider the points in the grievance that were specific to the consultation.
“This helped to ensure that the consultation process was fair, and that any decision taken would be in the best interest of the Bermuda public school system.”
Mr Rabain said that the ministry and education department would develop a “detailed implementation plan”, that focused on enrolment of current Primary 6 pupils, reinvestment of resources, transition and integration of pupils and staff, transportation, and “honouring the Warwick community and history”.
He added: “The department will engage first with principals in order to develop the implementation plan.
“However, there will be opportunities for input from other critical stakeholders in the coming weeks.
“Once the implementation plan is finalised, it will be made public and regular progress updates will be given.”
Mr Rabain said that the school building would now fall under the Ministry of Public Works.
He added: “They will be the ones to decide what happens.”
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, said earlier that proposals included a boxing ring, a carpentry shop, after-school programme and a cookery and baking kitchen for budding entrepreneurs.
Albert Wilson, who served as the president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association until last year, said that he hoped the building would be used for the benefit of children in the community, going forward.
Mould concerns forced pupils and staff to be relocated to Clearwater Middle School, in St David’s, for several weeks beginning in December 2016.
The school was closed again over mould problems last April.
Mr Rabain said in May that pupils would not return to the school after their summer break.
He said at the time that work to tackle the mould and other issues would take at least ten months to complete and cost $3 million.
An online petition to block the permanent shutdown of the school, launched on website Change.org, was signed by more than 150 people.
The school, originally called Warwick Secondary School, first opened its doors in 1967, at Warwick Camp, with 120 pupils.
It moved to its current location, on marshland at the foot of Pearman’s Hill, one year later.
It was renamed and reorganised as Spice Valley Middle School in 1997, and renamed TN Tatem Middle School in 2006, for the school’s founding principal Thomas Neville Tatem.
Lucille Parker-Swan, Mr Tatem’s daughter, said yesterday that seeing her father’s name on the building had always given her a “warm feeling”.
She said that her father had been honoured when the school was renamed for him, but he was motivated by his work as an educator, rather than accolades.
Ms Parker-Swan said that her father would “100 per cent” back changes to public education that benefited pupils.
Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, backed the decision to permanently close the school.
He said: “It was clearly a sick building and the safety and health of staff and students should be paramount.”
• To view Diallo Rabain’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”
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