Simons: no plan for school maintenance
Shadow education minister Cole Simons said the Ministry of Education has no refurbishment or remediation plan for public schools after Dellwood Middle School was closed off in areas to treat mould yesterday.
Mr Simons added that, when he was education minister before July’s election, there was no “proper plan” in place and said he did not expect it to be fixed quickly.
Mr Simons was speaking after education minister Diallo Rabain and public works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch pledged at a press conference last month that a “rigorous” plan for schools would be introduced and include “year-round maintenance” schedules.
But Mr Simons said: “Having sat as the Minister of Education for just under six months, I do not expect for these mould issues to go away any time soon.
“The Ministry of Education does not have a refurbishment plan or a remediation plan, for each of our schools, and their campuses.”
Dellwood students returned to the school yesterday, two days later than the official school schedule, but were only given limited access due to ongoing works including the treatment of mould.
A report by an independent company said the work had been completed, which led Government health and safety officer to clear it for occupancy.
But it emerged this week that more work needed to be done in some areas of the school so students have been housed at the Salvation Army and will be sent to TN Tatem Middle School and Clearwater Middle School on Monday and Tuesday next week.
No indication has been given as to when Dellwood will be open.
This incidence of mould is among other health and safety issues in schools that plagued the One Bermuda Alliance’s administration.
In June, students at TN Tatem Middle School were sent back to school after the building had been treated for mould, but were later told that more work needed to be done and they would have to attend Clearwater instead.
Mr Simons said: “We must refine the day-to-day remediation and maintenance programme for each of our schools, so that the leadership team in each school can strategically address the custodial and remedial issues when they first present themselves.
“We cannot begin to address these challenges when they are out of hand. Our first line of defence for this situation will be our school custodians, principals, and works and engineering’s school infrastructure inspectors.”
The PLP invited the press to tour Prospect Primary School earlier this month to show the progress that had been made on work there.
Mr Rabain told the media he blamed the OBA for not investing in education.
He said: “It is unfortunate that the previous government did not allocate the funding needed to address these issues when they were identified in June.”
Former finance minister Bob Richards set aside $3.2 million for school maintenance in his February 2017 budget.
The school reorganisation report released by Mr Simons’s predecessor Wayne Scott highlighted major works that needed to be completed in the majority of public primary schools.
Mr Rabain said at a press conference last month that a rigorous plan was to be drawn up to fix building and air-quality problems in schools. He added that reports on structural, mechanical, electrical and health and safety building inspections of all schools will be prepared to ensure a “complete picture” of the condition of schools in the future.
The Royal Gazette sent a list of questions to the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Public Works.
These included whether Government would continue to use the services of the independent company that released the later reversed bill of health for Dellwood.
Ministers were quizzed whether it was the same company that gave the green light for TN Tatem to open in June, only for the decision to be reversed.
Other questions related to the cost of extra work at Dellwood, how Dellwood pupils would be transported to Clearwater and TN Tatem and if there were unsafe levels of mould remaining at any other public schools.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch declined to comment in response to questions on a separate story on Dellwood, however, he said: “A fuller statement on the state and remedies will be issued in due course.”
The Ministry of Education did not respond by the time we went to press.
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