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Roof leaks ‘continue to plague’ TN Tatem

Leaks in the roof, ceiling and walls “continue to plague” TN Tatem Middle School, according to an air-quality report commissioned by the Ministry of Education.

Widespread mould has been detected throughout the facility, particularly in air vents, with ten areas flagged for recleaning — including the school's gym, cafeteria, machine shop section and educational therapy section.

Acting Commissioner of Education Freddie Evans prefaced the report on the school, which is closed at present, by noting that “while there is still quite a bit of work yet to be done ... it is doable in the timelines we have established”.

The report's top recommendation is for greater maintenance and upkeep of the school, with “specific attention” required for the ventilation and air-conditioning system. Students from the middle school have been bused to alternative classrooms at Clearwater Middle School in St David's since December 2016 because of mould, which is said to have affected staff as well as youngsters.

An air-quality assessment seen by The Royal Gazette, dated January 30, compiled results from Bermuda Water Consultants Ltd with Island Air Quality Services, concluding that mould levels, including toxic varieties, stood out as a “major concern”.

Out of 79 air samples, 16 contained noteworthy levels of mould, and from 80 surface samples, 53 showed mould — 31 of them showing active growth.

“Roof, ceiling, window and wall leaks continue to plague the school's physical plant,” the study concluded, among other recommendations — saying “corrective maintenance efforts must be improved”. In his statement, Dr Evans said the cleanup would be dealt with before students return on February 20, adding that the Government's health and safety co-ordinator would sign off on the building's readiness before students were approved to come back.

Amon Smith, president of the school's parent-teacher association, said the group planned to meet today to discuss the issues.

“As a parent, I am tremendously concerned about what's happening at the school, and making sure the department gets all these issues resolved,” Mr Smith said. “I'm just keeping my fingers crossed. We don't want to have this scenario again.”

Teachers walked off the job in September over air quality, with the Bermuda Union of Teachers subsequently branding it a “sick building”.

Several varieties of mould turned up in the study, including Chaetomium mould, which is associated with water damage, as is penicillium, which can set off allergies. Cladosporium, found in “elevated and active growth areas” around the air vents for the principal's and deputy principal's offices, has been linked with asthma. Stachybotrys, commonly known as black mould, is a more toxic fungus that has been cited in cases of “sick building syndrome”, and was detected in several areas.

One parent reported that her daughter, who is now 13, had lost her allergy symptoms since the relocation to Clearwater.

Children who had come to TN Tatem from Purvis Primary School, including her daughter, had fallen sick once they started at the middle school.

“I know there's been mould problems for a very, very long time — when I first talked about it, nobody wanted to admit it,” she said. “I know about mould and what it can do. It can cause serious damage to your lungs and elsewhere in your body. If it's got to the point where children are suffering, why would you allow children to be there?”

The quality assessment closed with 17 recommendations for the school, including prohibiting staff from installing personal air-conditioning units in windows, and removing carpets tainted with dirt and dust, saying they were “not being effectively cleaned”.

The report also called for the school's administration to address “the chronic issue of improper storage and the hoarding of excess materials and supplies, as well as obsolete items, about the school plant generally”.

TN Tatem Middle School

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Published February 09, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 09, 2017 at 9:08 am)

Roof leaks ‘continue to plague’ TN Tatem

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