Public Works Minister moved to set the record straight on speculation buzzing around the island that TN Tatem Middle School “is mold infested and should be demolished”.
Speaking in the House on Friday, Lieutenant Colonel David Burch stated outright that “the facts simply don’t bear that out”.
In follow up to the announcement last week, that the school would not reopen, the Minister said: “There have been a myriad of calls and emails seeking to use space at the facility.
“However, before the Ministry can entertain any of these proposals, there needs to first be a full assessment of the facility and the challenges that the building faced in the first place.”
Now that the decision to shut it down permanently has been made, he said “responsibility now falls to the Ministry of Public Works to decide on future uses for the school”.
He noted that “the school has been closed a few times over a number of years due to concerns regarding health and safety, mold and air quality”.
But he said: “Contrary to the assertions being made in some quarters that the building is mold infested and should be demolished – the facts simply don’t bear that out.
“At present there are six (6) entities currently occupying space at the facility with discussions fairly well advanced with a seventh group,” he added.
Request for use of the facilities at the Warwick school include “Bermuda’s most outstanding professional boxer, Mr Nikki Bascome” who runs a boxing gym. “that also caters to young folk interested in the sport”.
Requests to run other programs and services also include: “Mr Steve Parkes will run an afterschool carpentry programme for students, Ms Gina Thomas is running Hidden Treasures Thrift Boutique with part proceeds going to the Foster Parent Association, Mrs Lucinda Worrell-Stowe runs Positive Energy Community Kitchen and Mr Cervio Cox is running a fitness gym in the gymnasium that is geared more to the casual fitness buff rather than the hard core gym rat.
“All of these activities are under licence to July 31st, 2020. Now that a final decision has been made – we will enter into discussion with them about their future.
“Pembroke Hamilton Club (PHC) [let me declare my interest as a member of PHC have had a long standing lease arrangement with the Ministry of Public Works for the use of the playing field for both training and their multitude of community football programmes – so it was a natural fit to approach them first to see if there could be some temporary expanded use of the school facilities, that could assist with their programmes.
“Needless to say they were very receptive of the offer and we have provided use of classroom space for their after school programmes and toilet facilities,” he added.
The Minister also referred to this excerpt from the Environmental and Air Quality assessment report of February 19th, 2019.
It is our opinion that everything that we observed is directly related to an inadequate general and routine maintenance at the facility. The issues that we noted today are the same issues which we noted back in 2013 and are the same issues that closed the school in 2017.
- 1] Water leaks associated with poorly maintained roofs, wall cracks, air-conditioning and plumbing
- 2] Windows and window screens which are either inoperable or have limited operation
- 3] Inoperable mechanical systems
- 4] Inappropriate storage
- 5] Accumulation of waste
- 6] Inadequate housekeeping
It is our opinion that if these items are adequately addressed and maintained on an ongoing basis, the issue of mold and poor indoor air quality [IAQ] would not return.
“As I reported last year, the buildings could not simply remain shuttered for an entire school year,” said Col Burch.
“Everyone knows what happens when any building in our sub-tropical climate is closed – it’s the perfect environment for mold and mildew – [Bermuda’s National Flower] – to flourish.
“In August last year I conducted a tour of the facility to ascertain what steps should be taken to ensure the integrity, security and ongoing cleanliness of the buildings.
“We discussed the temporary repurposing of some of the buildings so that there remained a physical presence on site to discourage vandalism, damage or even unauthorized occupancy of the building. All of which have occurred over this period.
“Several of the classrooms – particularly those in the family services block – a single story structure at the eastern end of the property -were suitable for various community activities that could provide that physical presence we sought. Included in that area is a weight training room, carpentry and woodwork shops, family studies and counselling rooms along with toilet facilities. All of these areas tested clean of any mold or air quality issues,” he added.
“On just one other aspect of the challenges we have faced over the intervening months – and that is the use of the site as a dumping ground for all manner of household waste.
“Signs will go up shortly and CCTV coverage will be expanded to identify the culprits who will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would load their vehicle with garbage and drive to TN Tatem to dispose of it rather than travelling a few more miles down the road to Tynes Bay and do their small part to keep our island clean.”
On that note, he said: “We will move as fast as we can to get the building ready for future uses while taking into consideration suggestions made by members of the public and colleagues.”