Scott pledges inspections at middle schools
Education minister Wayne Scott has promised facility inspections at each of the island's public middle schools, after a teacher walkout at T.N. Tatem Middle School this week over mould issues.
The announcement came as a health and safety report found the school safe to be occupied, with no “imminent health and safety concern” but the premises needing thorough cleaning and repairs.
A plan for the school should be in place by December 9, with a timeline agreed between the Ministries of Education and Public Works. Mr Scott said the T.N. Tatem report would be posted online today on the ministry website.
Parent Teacher Association members have requested in the past that the Bermuda Government carry out a report similar to the Score [School Reorganisation] report for primary schools to look into health and safety standards across the island's middle schools.
Mr Scott told The Royal Gazette: “There is no plan to do a Score type report for the middle schools. However, we have just received a full facilities inspection report on T.N. Tatem which is very similar to what was done in the Score report and it is our intention to do this for each middle school.”
Toxic strains aspergillus and penicillium mould are said to have been found in the rooms at T.N. Tatem while an unspecified number of teachers complained of lethargy, headaches, redness of the eyes and swelling of the face.
Mr Scott said that a “full facilities inspection report” had found no immediate health threats, though the ministry was working through concerns.
PTA president at Dellwood, Kelland Hayward, said that Dellwood recently had mould issues and had previously received reports of rodents on the premises.
Mr Hayward said: “There are definitely issues in Dellwood as well and we have seen T.N. Tatem is a clear example as well. There is mould and things of that nature at Dellwood and there have been reports of rodents in the past.
“We are not sure how wide spread it is but we definitely know there have been concerns. There is no comprehensive report that has been done. However, it has been requested.
“There are all sorts of concerns that have been put out there.
“Ever since the Score report came out for primary schools the same group has suggested that it also be done for the entire public school system.
“As always Government is way behind in its timing but at the end of the day that report would definitely be invaluable in highlighting the issues that do exist.”
Mr Hayward said the issue of mould at Dellwood had been raised with the principal and, following a request from the Ministry of Education earlier this month for feedback on health and safety concerns, the school was now working on a formal response.
Mr Hayward said there had been growing concerns in recent days after the Supreme Court case of police officer Emmerson Donald who said his “mind and body were broken down” and his life “hijacked” as a result of toxic mould-related illness.
“People aren't waiting to find out what type of mould it is now — if they can see mould they are concerned.
“We recognise that the Government is in a bad way in terms of financing but we do want to know there are promises of it being addressed so we are looking for those kinds of indicators.”
The Score report published in February of this year exposed damning health and safety standards across the primary school system including mould, live electrical wires and leaks as well as infestations of rodents, termites and cockroaches.
The Department of Education has been working with the Department of Parks and the Department of Works and Engineering to rectify the issues in the primary schools and are posting progress updates on the ministry website at www.moed.bm
Mr Scott added: “We have looked at the report into air quality at T.N. Tatem and we are pleased to say there are no imminent health threats at T.N. Tatem.
“However, there are concerns and issues that we have to address some of which we are starting to address immediately. Our goal is to have an action plan with timelines by next week Friday similar to what we did in the Score report and we are going to get on with these things. I appreciate this and support this. We have funds available for the schools and we are looking forward to getting on with it.
“The commissioner reached out to ask the union to canvass their members to bring issues to our attention. We have asked the principals and custodians.
“Over the break a few weeks ago there were some issues at Dellwood Middle School which we addressed immediately. There was some mould that we had to remediate as well as fix a leaking roof. We understand that there are concerns and we are very sensitive to those concerns and it is our intention to address those issues especially where there is a health and safety concern.”