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School maintenance work well under way

Wayne Scott and Craig Cannonier look over plans with Ciaran Keaveny, operations manager at Horsfield Landscape & Design Ltd, for a new jungle gym at Harrington Sound Primary School (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Major maintenance works are under way to deal with neglected preschool and primary school infrastructure in preparation for the start of the academic year next month.

Wayne Scott, the Minister of Education, and Craig Cannonier, the Minister of Public Works, yesterday invited The Royal Gazette to observe work being carried out at Harrington Sound Primary and Victor Scott Primary, two of the lowest-rated schools in terms of health and safety according to the damning School Reorganisation (Score) Report published last February.

The document, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, highlighted a health and safety crisis across Bermuda’s primary schools, with problems including rat and termite infestations, faulty bathroom facilities and unstable play structures.

Work is being carried out at most primary schools, including large-scale internal and external paint jobs.

Shovels were in the ground yesterday at Harrington Sound Primary, where a new playground was being created. At Victor Scott Primary, the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms were being gutted and given new fittings.

Comments about Harrington Sound in the Score report included: “Play structures in terrible condition. Swings are broken. Triangle is an accident waiting to happen. Some windows are very low; lots of rodents get into the building.”

Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette: “It is important that the public know that we have identified the issues and are addressing them. These are not things that happen in a six-month period. This playground is falling to pieces, it is a very old structure and these things need to be done.

“Myself and Minister Cannonier have been working to ensure we have a collaborative effort between our teams so that we can actually see things done that support our children and our communities.

“The Score report was a very positive thing — there is always a lot of talk and innuendo about what is going on in the schools so it was important to have a good starting point and to put something out there that the public can see. We enhanced that with a full maintenance list which is online on the ministry website — it sets out what we are working on, what we are going to do, and if something new arises it can be added to the list.”

At Victor Scott Primary, The Royal Gazette was shown a clean, bright yellow, external paint job. Inside, work on the boy’s toilets included the replacement of all urinals.

Mr Cannonier said: “Our schools are old, there’s no question about it, and they require quite a bit of maintenance, so this is all part of us ensuring the schools are ready, that our students can come into schools that are functional and the facilities are working.

“When it comes to painting we are following a rotation but as far as the bathrooms are concerned, that is being done on a most needed basis.

“We recognised those schools that were very much in need of their bathrooms being revamped, including Elliott, Victor Scott and Northlands. Work has been going on for some time now. You will see a whole lot of work going on.”

Schools listed by Score as being in need of “immediate attention” were Victor Scott Primary, Harrington Sound Primary, Northlands Primary, Paget Primary, Prospect Primary, West Pembroke Primary, Elliot Primary, and St David’s Primary.

Most of the completed jobs include work on CCTV cameras, repairs to windows and doors and the servicing of water fountains.

Work that has been prioritised going forward includes an electrical upgrade and leaky roofs at East End Primary, the new playground and fire alarm system problems at Harrington Sound, rodents and mould issues and the need for a new playground at West Pembroke Primary, and termite and rodent issues at Paget Primary School.

Elliot Primary was one of the schools with the most priority listings, including fumigation of the school, paint work, leaky windows, restroom upgrades, replacement of upper school rafters and repairs to the “questionable” gym floor.

Victor Scott needed termite eradication, restroom renovations, paint work, assembly hall leaks and ceiling tile replacement.

The full schedule of work that has been completed, work under way and priority jobs have been listed on the Ministry of Education’s website, www.moed.bm