Combermere mystery solved

Chemistry waste to blame – research team

After more than a year of disruptions, the mystery surrounding the foul odour that has permeated the Combermere School compound has finally been solved.

Following “an extensive and fairly rigorous” examination, a team of technical specialists has concluded that chemical waste from Science labs, was one of the main reasons behind the pungent smell that forced the school’s closure last November.

Lead researcher Brian Reece (inset) presenting his findings during an animated session for parents and guardians of Combermere students at the school Friday afternoon.

However, following a four-week sewage assessment, that problem has now been fully rectified, clearing the way for Combermere’s official re-opening on Tuesday.

This was the assurance given to parents and guardians who attended a meeting convened by the Ministry of Education at the school just after 1 p.m. Friday.

The research team, made of five Combermere old scholars and headed by Health and Safety Environmentalist Brian Reece, also examined air quality, moisture levels and storage practices at the Waterford, St Michael institution.

“We did quite an extensive and fairly rigorous regime of testing and analyses to ensure that we covered all our bases,” the lead researcher said.

The group, which also included Chemistry lecturer Dr Leah Garner-O’Neale, civil engineer Greg Parris, industrial hygienist Ian Weekes and occupational physician Dr Euclid Morris, also suggested that inappropriate storage and management of chemicals in the Science block may have contributed to the noxious odours that were noticeable for months.

However, parents were assured parents that measures had been taken to prevent a recurrence and that a clean-up initiative was currently in motion.

During the meeting, Chief Education Officer Karen Best was adamant that Combermere School would be ready to receive students on Tuesday, saying, “There is no but”.

Her comment was met with thunderous applause by parents who expressed concern that teachers were still not fully onboard with the school’s re-opening.

Parents and guardians during the meeting at the Combermere School.

“In our opinion and we are taking the lead from the Ministry of Labour the school is ready for students on Tuesday,” Best emphasized.

Given the latest five-week closure which came on the heels of numerous interruptions, parents also demanded to know how the school would make up for the lost time. However, principal Vere Parris could only say that the matter would be up for discussion between management and the teachers who are scheduled to meet on Monday.

“In whatever way we can, we will be making up for the time that has been lost,” he added.

In the meantime, the return of teachers will depend on the outcome of a tour of the compound by members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) on Monday.

Friday, the union met for three hours with officials of the Ministry at its Constitution Road headquarters.

Following those talks which ended just after 7 p.m., the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Senator Harry Husbands, expressed optimism that all teaching staff would be present for Tuesday’s reopening.

However, BSTU President Mary Redman suggested that the matter was not a done deal.

She told reporters that it was the prerogative of the ministry to “open and close schools”. However, she said the final decision on whether teachers return to Combermere would be revealed after their tour on Monday.

14 Responses to Combermere mystery solved

  1. Jan Hold
    Jan Hold January 7, 2017 at 12:00 am


  2. Jan Hold
    Jan Hold January 7, 2017 at 12:01 am

    These things don’t go away over night. Will see how this plays out

  3. Alex Alleyne January 7, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Time and history shall tell.

  4. Ricky Rich January 7, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Does Mary Redman care about teaching at all?

  5. Sherene Drakes-Seales
    Sherene Drakes-Seales January 7, 2017 at 12:34 am

    Brian Reece.. Ol cawmere boy

  6. Anne Ince
    Anne Ince January 7, 2017 at 12:45 am


  7. Sunshine Sunny Shine January 7, 2017 at 7:21 am

    Poor tree. They cut it down without the proper analysis being done.

  8. Sunshine Sunny Shine January 7, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Now can we have the findings of why the Roebuck Secondary School closure suffered permanency now that we have exercised some transparency in the Combermere matter

  9. Dap January 7, 2017 at 10:35 am

    Well that is great news is it possible that is what was happening at Roebuck Secondary just a taught .Check out the other schools to prevent it from happening

  10. Carson C Cadogan January 7, 2017 at 11:05 am

    “Combermere mystery solved”

    Can someone remind me how many times “the Problem” at Combermere has been solved?

    The only way to solve “the problem” at Combermere is to close the school down for good as was done with Louis Lynch school.

    • Ryan Jones January 8, 2017 at 2:48 am

      Why would you say this the experts diagnosed the problem and addressed it so no reason to close the school. Maybe a similar root cause analysis should have been undertaken at Roebuck Secondary School.

  11. 3rdsun January 7, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Why Mary Redman don’t drop in a well when she touring. Bare red tape and time wasting.

  12. Mikey January 7, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Carson , if the experts say that the problem(s) is/are solved, then let time and history prove them wrong !!!
    Why close down the school permanently ?
    Where will the students go to school ?
    When people are not blind, deaf and dumb, then they can only see as far as the tip of their nose. Carson, try wearing some binoculars .

  13. Ann Harding January 8, 2017 at 8:11 am

    What are the regulations that anyone, especially an educational institution, must follow regarding storage and handling noxious materials? What can we learn from this? Blaming and shaming is useless where people’s health is at risk.


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