Environmental problems at schools will be solved – Jones

Lingering environmental challenges at three of the island’s schools continue to receive the attention of the authorities, assured Minister of Education Ronald Jones as the new school term got underway today.

Students at Combermere School and The Lodge School returned to their classrooms at Waterford, St Michael and Massiah Street, St John respectively, while pupils of Lawrence T Gay resumed their studies at three temporary sites.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the official opening of workshops for the pilot implementation of the Barbados National Qualifications Framework, Jones said efforts were continuing to keep the foul odour plaguing Combermere at bay as he gave an update on remedial work conducted at the facility during the just ended Easter holiday.

“As you all are aware, Combermere has been affected for some time by acacia trees, so we are working to have those trees removed onto some private property, so there is a bit of consultation ongoing to have that done. In the meantime, we have had some understanding that persons who cut grass and shrub would not do that during the time that children are in operation at the school because from the time you bruise one [acacia tree] it . . . gives off this protective gas called ethylene gas,” Jones revealed.

He also disclosed that improvements were made to the plumbing, septic tanks were cleaned and new measures were implemented to stop birds from nesting and breeding on the compound.

“We will also work with the community which surrounds that school to ensure that whatever they are doing would conform to the best environmental standards and the burning of any trash, or any material would not proliferate in the presence of the school and become trapped in classrooms.”

Turning to Lawrence T Gay Primary School, which was closed since last term after students and teachers complained of sore throats, itchy skin and rash, Jones said there was still no timeline for the school’s re-opening but work would begin this week at the St Michael learning institution.

He said the ministry had received a preliminary report late last week, but provided no details.

“Some work will commence on the removal of some structures in the remediation of the areas that have been affected by whatever has been found. I think a meeting with parents should be coming off this week. We met with teachers today and senior staff yesterday and other stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of the Environment to ensure that what we do conform to best practices to ensure that again that environment returns to a position of being highly comfortable.”

With respect to Lodge School, Jones reported that the problem, which mainly affected the staff room, related to spores coming through wood that was stuck to a wall structure.

“That allowed this fungus to emerge so work is ongoing on that particular thing, and the technical people suggest that what you must use is relative to an antifungal spray to take care of that.

“So that where there is moisture we will seek to ensure that moisture doesn’t come in to cause an environment of any spores. So that is ongoing as well,” he said.

The Ministry of Education would continue “working to do everything possible within the context of that and all other school environments that we encounter from time to time which might encounter one single difficulty, or in the case of Combermere, several things all conjoining to create an environment that was a bit problematic,” the minister assured. (SD)

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