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Mould ‘all over the place’ at Dellwood

Widespread mould at Dellwood Middle School is the main reason the school has relocated to Bermuda College, according to Bermuda Union of Teachers president Shannon James.

Speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday, Mr James said Dellwood represented the tip of the iceberg in terms of schools that were in need of health and safety remediation.

In recent weeks, TN Tatem Middle School was forced to close and relocate to Clearwater Middle School because of mould issues while Harrington Sound Primary School children were sent home for several days because of an infestation of bird mites.

Mr James said a report similar to the Score [School Reorganisation] report for primary schools was needed for all schools in Bermuda but added that concerns had already been raised with the Ministry of Education by some principals and their deputies.

Students and teachers at Dellwood were forced to relocate to Bermuda College this week due to what the ministry described in a press release as “building issues”. Mr James made clear that mould was the overriding factor following a meeting between education minister Cole Simons, the Permanent Secretary of Education, the Commissioner of Education, and the principal at Dellwood yesterday morning.

The ministry has said it would provide updates early next week after the transition was complete.

Mr James said: “Mould is the main issue — it is all over the place. It was also being tested for asbestos but mould is the main concern.

“What we would like to see is [a report] not just for Dellwood but for all schools — they need some major attention. The health and safety of our school buildings is a main concern. People say ‘oh, we live in Bermuda, we have mould’, but what are the levels of mould and what types of mould are they? We have to figure it out because of the health implications. I know there have been a few teachers who have had some health concerns due to the conditions.

“A report like Score is necessary but along with that there are chains and chains of e-mails that can show that there are schools where principals and deputies have been saying we have a leak, we have mould, we have an issue ...

“Yes, a Score report would help because it would help to condense everything but there are records of school saying we need to get these issues addressed. I used to work at Dellwood. It has had issues for years and now there are classes that have become really dangerous.”

According to Mr James, health and safety officers have said that they must find the root cause of the mould problem.

“You can clean stuff and wipe stuff down but if you don’t get to the leaks or whatever is causing it, you will be right back there in a few days.”

Mr James wanted to make clear that information from another news source that teachers at Dellwood took industrial action over the mould was incorrect.

He said: “They were looking at the Health and Safety Act 1982 and were saying Dellwood is a sick building so they didn’t want to go in. It was not industrial action.”

Finally, Mr James’s message to the ministry was “do it right”, referencing two recent school remediation plans that were said by the Ministry to be satisfactory only to be followed by further works and temporary closure.

TN Tatem closed in November of last year due mainly to mould and health problems. Work was done and the Bermuda Government released a health and safety report to say the school posed no immediate threat. However, when it reopened, teachers insisted the school remained “sick” and eventually walked out in protest. The students were moved to Clearwater Middle School until the works were completed.

Then, last month, Harrington Sound Primary School was closed for two days due to bird mites found in the roof. Following work, the Ministry of Education sent a letter to the school saying it was safe and comfortable.

However, more mites were found a day after the children returned and the PTA held an emergency meeting. Further work was then carried out to rectify the problem.

“Just do it right,” said Mr James. “So many times we go for quick fixes — just do it right.

“You also have to follow up and make sure that things are maintained and followed through. The same with TN Tatem and Harrington Sound. Just do it right.”

Classes for the remainder of the year will be held at the Bermuda College campus, the ministry said.

“The Ministry of Public Works had scheduled repairs and maintenance to begin after the school term had ended but the work will now start next week,” the release said.

In addition to planned air quality tests, several school repairs were also planned to take place over the summer break, the ministry said.

Details of the particulars of the work were not provided by the ministry in its release.

In March, education minister Cole Simons told the House of Assembly that several schools were being investigated for possible mould.

Dellwood — along with Port Royal Primary School, Prospect Primary School, and the Child Development Programme facility — were all named.

“After assessment of these facilities, a determination will be made whether any remediation work needs to be carried out,” Mr Simons said at the time.

Parents will be kept informed through the school about the alternative arrangements at the Bermuda College, according to the ministry.

Mr Simons provided the public with an update on the Score report last week including a comprehensive list of work that has been carried out at 18 primary public schools. This included the painting of buildings, tenting for infestations, window replacements, restroom upgrades and air quality tests.

“We will continue to deliver on the items highlighted in the Score report as well as other school facility repairs as they arise.

“Further repair work has been scheduled for the summer months when schools are closed to ensure that our primary schools are safe and clean prior to the start of the 2017/18 school year,” he said.

The Score report recommendations and the list of facility repairs are posted on the ministry website at www.moed.bm