Government is now in the final stages of cleaning and repair work projects “at the majority of public schools’ with the exception of Dellwood Middle School, which will remain closed after schools re-open.
Apart from that, all other projects are “on schedule” for the schools “to be fully operational and ready for handover” to teachers on September 1st.
Providing an update today on the joint projects, Education Minister Diallo Rabain and Public Works Minister Colonel David Burch told the media that all other schools will be ready to open for the new school year on September 11th.
Dellwood students will be temporarily housed at “locations in the City of Hamilton” until the work is complete in about two weeks.
The “scheduled maintenance and building upgrades” undertaken by both Ministries to improve public school facilities, including mould remediation and other major works that have been carried out and infrastructural work across the board.
Mr Robain noted that Dellwood was closed in June as a result of widespread mould at the facility. Since then, his Cabinet colleague, Col Burch has stated that three separate contractors were assigned to remove the mould in a limited time frame.
“It is unfortunate that the previous Government did not allocate the funding needed to address these issues when they were identified in June. As a result, it was not, however, until July 25, some six weeks after the school was closed, that at this new Government’s first Cabinet meeting, the funding was approved to get Dellwood Middle School safe for the upcoming school year,” said Mr Rabain.
“Despite the hard work and long hours by both the Ministry of Works staff and the three contractors on site, we have determined that Dellwood Middle School will not be ready in time for the September 11 opening,” he said. “I want to assure the public that every effort is being made by my team to ensure that our students have minimal disruption to their learning,” he added.
Cross-Ministry talks were also held involving the Department of Health, the Dellwood team, the school’s PTSA executive, staff and executive members of the Bermuda Union of Teachers to determine the most suitable alternative arrangements. Unfortunately, the Minister said: “While the preferred option will be to have students back at their school, Dellwood Middle School students will be housed initially in alternative locations in the City of Hamilton.” By September 6th, he said the Ministry will know the final details of “this temporary relocation and the general public will be notified accordingly”.
Safety building inspections with reports on the structural, mechanical, electrical, health and safety of all school buildings will be carried out. Mr Rabain also noted that a “year-round maintenance plan” will be implemented moving forward.
Students at TN Tatem Middle School were also forced to relocate to Clearwater due to mould issues at the Warwick facility during the last school year. And Harrington Sound Primary School students were sent home due to an infestation of bird mites that saw teachers down tools in protest against the condition of the buildings.
Some of the works undertaken during the summer break include:
- The renovation of student restrooms at Lyceum and Warwick Preschools and TN Tatem Middle School
- The tent fumigation of Victor Scott Primary school and West Pembroke’s infant block
- Roof replacement at Elliot Primary
- The installation of a natural playground at St David’s Preschool
- Installation of perimeter fencing at Hope Academy
- Hallway and classroom floor resurfacing projects at Somerset Primary, Southampton Preschool, Prospect Preschool, Harrington Sound Primary and St David’s Primary
- Additional maintenance at various school sites including: pest control assessments, fire alarm inspection testing and installation, water fountain maintenance and cleaning and power washing at various school sites
In his closing remarks, the Minister said the new Government “inherited a severely neglected school infrastructure”. “To put this in perspective, 27 of our 29 Primary and Middle schools are older than our existing Airport; an airport that is currently being replaced,” said Mr Rabain.
“It appears that year after year of patchwork has left us with buildings in need of serious attention. Despite these challenges, we have worked tirelessly from July 19th, 2017 to ensure that what we had to work with was made safe for our students. Once the school year is underway, the Ministries of Education and Workforce Development and Public Works will examine how school maintenance is managed and, going forward, will be implementing a year round maintenance plan.”
He also expressed gratitude for the additional assistance the Ministry has received from members of the public who have volunteered with Work Rallies.
“Ms Angela Young and her team of Work Rally Volunteers have done a great public service and their efforts are to be applauded,” said Mr Rabain. On behalf of the Ministry, he extended a big thank you “for their commitment, drive and willingness to share the load in helping to get our schools ready for the school year”.
He closed by thanking teams at the Ministries of Public Works and Education for “maintaining, repairing and cleaning our schools: despite the challenges they have had to face “year after year”.
Said Mr Rabain: “Many of our existing school facilities need to be replaced, but we are grateful for the teams who work all year to keep them safe for students, staff and their surrounding communities.”