No jobs expected to go over TN Tatem closure
The island's teachers union has not been part of talks to relocate staff from a closed middle school, its head said yesterday.
Shannon James, the president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said the union had had “no correspondence” with the Government about where TN Tatem Middle School teachers would be, come September.
He was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, publicly announced yesterday that the Warwick school would remain closed for the coming school year.
News of the continued closure emerged at a parents' meeting at Bermuda College on Wednesday.
Mr Rabain said that the closure would not lead to any job losses. Mr James said the BUT “can only listen” to Mr Rabain “and see how his actions follow”.
Mr James, who also instructs at TN Tatem, said that teachers were told by a government employee this week that they would have a say on what school they were to be reassigned to.
He described TN Tatem teachers as “resilient and dedicated”.
Mr James added: “Their main concern is the proximity of where they may be and how they will have to adjust to meet personal obligations before and after school.”
A government spokesman said that in a meeting with TN Tatem teachers on Wednesday, educators were told that the Department of Education would engage with them about where they were transferred, but the determining factor would be student numbers.
The spokeswoman added: “Teachers were invited to e-mail the Department of Education if they wanted to have individual conversations to discuss any personal considerations. Several teachers have e-mailed the department today to express their interest and meeting times have been set up.
“Teachers were assured that all placements would be confirmed prior to the end of the school term.”
Mr Rabain said that parents of TN Tatem pupils would know by the end of next month what school their children were to attend.
He added: “That will also include teachers. We have to know where the students are going before we can allocate the teachers.”
Parents were told that they would receive forms next week so they can indicate which school they would like their children to attend.
Mr Rabain said that the Department of Education was working to determine how requests would be prioritised.
He added: “Ideally, the priority will start with students who are in the closest proximity to the school.”
Mr Rabain said that the process to relocate students who were due to start school at TN Tatem in September had begun.
He added: “The ministry will also do all we can to assist our parents and students to ensure their learning experience during the next school year is as productive as possible.
“Additionally, parents will be provided with vouchers, as necessary, to mitigate the pressure of having to buy new uniforms for the new school the students are attending.”
Mr Rabain said transportation would also be examined once pupils were placed at their new schools.
He said: “Once we get everything settled, then we'll start talking about the things I noted in here — the transportation, the school uniform vouchers, and things like that.”
Mr Rabain reiterated that work at the school to tackle mould and other issues would take at least ten months to complete and cost about $3 million.
He could not provide details on what specific work was needed. Mr Rabain said: “I do not have that with me. Those are the figures that were given to me by the facilities team and Works and Engineering.”
Mr James said that the BUT encouraged teachers to “take a stand with regards to the health and safety of their workplace”.
He added: “It is for them and the students.”
Mr James said that TN Tatem teachers had felt that their concerns, including about health and safety matters, were “not considered as valid” by the Ministry of Education.
He added: “We call on the ministry to come up with a viable plan for the maintenance of all of our schools and for them to support their employees when they feel there may be some health concerns.”
The school was shut last month after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears.
The closure order was sparked by a letter from the Parent Teacher Student Association to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.
The school was previously closed in late 2016 and students were temporarily moved to Clearwater Middle School because of concerns about mould.
• To read Diallo Rabain's statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”
The Bermuda Union of Teachers has called for an emergency meeting of members to take place this morning.
But the Department of Education said the union had not requested for members to have time away from work for the meeting.
A spokeswoman for the department said: “Therefore teachers are not authorised to absent themselves from work but are expected to report to school for the regular school work day.
“However, the Department will work with the BUT in alignment with correct protocols to find a more suitable time to hold a general membership meeting rather than disrupt the teaching day for students.”
The meeting as announced is to take place at the Heritage Worship Centre on Dundonald Street at 8.30am.