Tests planned after teachers abandon classroom

  • Paget Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

    Paget Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Health concerns have forced pupils out of their classroom just weeks into the new school term.

Selessia Watson said that her son, Dantč, 7, and other pupils in the Active Learners Programme at Paget Primary had been relocated inside the school.

She said the class comprises about eight children on the Autism spectrum.

Ms Watson, 30, said the move was made by schoolteachers concerned over classroom conditions. She said that parents were alerted to the problem by teachers when their children returned to school after the summer break. Ms Watson said the classroom smelled “like a wet cardboard box”.

She added: “You could smell it even before you got to the classroom.”

Ms Watson said that teachers had approached the school about the issue before classes resumed last month.

She said that a loud air purifier was put into the classroom to try and help the issue. Ms Watson added: “For children on the spectrum something loud like that is very distracting.”

She said the machine had to be run for the entire school day.

Ms Watson described: “If they turned it off the floor would get soaking wet, and the walls would be dripping.”

She said that the pupils were out of the classroom for the second week on the school term to take part in the Endeavour Programme.

Despite the children being out of the classroom, she said the problem was not fixed.

Ms Watson said teachers refused to take the pupils back into the classroom at the start of the third week — opting to move them instead to the staff lunch room.

She said the class was forced to relocate again into an empty classroom. Ms Watson said the room was filled with junk, as well as pests.

She added: “We went in there last week and had to put down mice traps.”

Ms Watson said that the alternative classroom also presented another problem to pupils.

She explained: “You can see all the traffic going in and out of the school, which is a big distraction.”

Ms Watson said that she wanted testing carried out to determine if the normal classroom was safe for her son and his classmates.

Ms Watson added: “They need to have a plan, and act like they care.”

She said that concerns over health conditions had shuttered Cabinet Building on Front Street in 2016.

Ms Watson asked: “What makes them think that children can go to school in it?”

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, confirmed yesterday that the facilities team was tackling repairs to the Active Learners Programme classroom.

Ms Richards said the team “will be removing cupboards, fixing lights and carrying out general cleaning of the room and fixtures”.

She added: “Prior to a pre-scheduled school inspection, it was noted that the classroom air purifier was giving off an offensive smell and as a precaution, staff asked to be temporarily relocated to another room until air-quality tests were conducted.”

Ms Richards confirmed that air-quality tests would also be conducted.

She said that despite the problems “prior to the start of the year, no work was required in the classroom”.

Ms Richards said that the “minor” work now needed came about as a result of a pre-scheduled inspection done on September 28.

She added: “The Department of Education wants to reassure staff, students and parents of our commitment to providing safe school environments.”

Cole Simons, the Shadow Minister of Education, said the situation did not happen overnight.

He added: “This is a manifestation of ongoing health and safety problems.

“This is evidenced-based on the fact the cabinets have to be pulled down, the lighting fixtures have to be removed, and the room has to have a deep clean.”

Mr Simons said the situation at the school is another example of the lack of thorough and ongoing school maintenance.

He added: “It also reaffirms our belief that the facilities management team in the ministry is woefully under-resourced by this government, and as a result our unhealthy campuses are having an adverse effect on our students.”

Mr Simons said the Government must commit to a facilities management plan “assessed annually, at minimum”.

He added: “With our affluence, our students deserve, and have a right to attend schools which have campuses which cause them no added stress or burdens.

“They should not be exposed to unnecessary health and safety risks.”

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Published Oct 4, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Oct 4, 2018 at 8:02 am)

Tests planned after teachers abandon classroom

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