Thursday, November 8, 2018
By KHRISNA RUSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd expressed disappointment in the actions of the majority of teachers at CH Reeves Junior High School, telling Parliament that educators withdrew service more than a week ago despite receiving clearance that it was safe to teach at the facility.
As of yesterday morning, Mr Lloyd said substitute teachers were asked to assist administrators and the ten remaining teachers who did not take part in the unauthorised industrial action. Normally, 74 teachers are stationed at the school.
According to the minister, without prior notice, the junior high school teachers withdrew labour last Monday backed by claims of a suspicion of mould in 12 classrooms, leakage in a few of the classrooms, termite infestation and leaky toilets in one block of the girls' bathrooms.
As a result, Mr Lloyd said the ministry requested the assistance of Anthony Ryan - Environmental Monitoring Risk Assessment Division in the Department of Environmental Health who assessed the affected classrooms, finding what he described to be recognised environmental concerns, including in dust and accumulated dirt.
He subsequently formulated a prescription to rectify those issues, Mr Lloyd said, adding a contractor was immediately hired to conduct the remediation process.
This included the removal of mildew, the cleaning of dust on ceiling beams, and the cleaning of air-conditioning units, window sills and elsewhere. Other contractors effected repairs to a leaky roof and to faulty toilets in one of the female students' bathrooms, the minister said.
"In good faith, the management at the Ministry of Education made the decision to suspend classes on Wednesday, October 31, and Thursday, November 1, in order to begin the remediation process," Mr Lloyd told the House.
"Meanwhile, parents were advised to keep their children at home while teachers and other staff were asked to report to school.
"Teachers were asked to work from the staff room and engage in lesson planning, the marking of student books, the preparing of examinations and other school-related tasks. Despite the fact that this arrangement was agreed with the Bahamas Union of Teachers, the majority of the teachers left the work site well before the normal dismissal time of 3.15pm.
"Following the classroom cleanings, Mr Ryan conducted another assessment and provided the Ministry of Education with an oral report which indicated that the school was suitable for occupancy. However, on Friday, November 2, 2018, teachers at the C H Reeves still refused to work despite the fact that a new classroom schedule was constructed by administrators that accommodated all classes, without them having to use the newly cleaned rooms. Instead, they insisted upon being provided with a copy of a written report prepared by the Department of Environmental Health Services."
Mr Lloyd said to accommodate the additional repairs, the executives of the Department of Education in conjunction with the school's administrative team, decided that the school would temporarily operate on the staff meeting bell schedule. This would allow for classes to be dismissed at 2pm daily until the repairs were successfully completed.
However, on Monday, November 5, the teachers abandoned their posts again, leaving students dangerously unsupervised.
"The Ministry of Education received the official written report from Mr Ryan at the end of the work day on Monday past, which was shared immediately with the Bahamas Union of Teachers. At BUT's request the director, Mr Marcellous Taylor, and his executive team arranged a meeting with Mr Ryan. A meeting was arranged for 3pm yesterday. "However at 3.10pm, ten minutes after the agreed time the union called to say that they were otherwise engaged and could not meet. The union has not been heard from since."
He said after reviewing the findings and recommendations advanced in the environmental assessment report conducted by Mr Ryan carried out on C H Reeves Jr High School, the Ministry of Education was and is satisfied that the entire campus was and is safe for occupation by teachers and students.
"Despite all efforts made to rectify the situation at C H Reeves Jr High School, teachers still refused to report to classes. At this point, teachers began questioning the validity of the written report provided by the Environmental Monitoring Risk Assessment Division. As of this presentation the teachers remain out of the classroom while yet on campus," Mr Lloyd said.
C H Reeves has a student complement of 1,020 who need 196 contact instructional days to complete the curriculum. However the ministry struggles to pack the needed courses into 176 days, which is less than the ideal quota.