No classes at 3 schools
By Newsday Staff Tuesday, October 8 2013
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Class dismissed: Students of Pleasantville Secondary School file out of the compound yesterday after parents, teachers and union officials said their ...
Thousands of students from three schools are yet to attend classes since the 2013/2014 school year began on September 2, because of unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the sites.
Pleasantville Secondary School, Vance River RC Primary School and Diego Martin Boys’ RC Primary School are the affected institutions.
At Pleasantville Secondary, located in Pleasantville, San Fernando, hundreds of students streamed through the gates shortly before lunch yesterday, on their way home as a decision was taken by parents and staff members to give the Ministry of Education one more week to rectify the litany of woes that has prevented the school from opening.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting, treasurer of National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA), Clarence Mendoza, whose child attends Pleasantville, said the school, which is currently undergoing remedial works, was due to reopen yesterday but after a site inspection by parents, teachers and union personnel from the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and the Public Services Association (PSA), a decision was taken to suspend classes for another week. “The major concern for the teachers is the unsafe compound which they have been working on, the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL), came out here, the contractor did part of the work over the past few days and it is partially completed but the parents want the job complete in order to have their children back on the compound,” Mendoza said. “The staff, they not coming out until the compound is safe.”
Parents, teachers and union officials plan to go to the Education Ministry in Port-of-Spain tomorrow and hope to meet line Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh and Chief Education Officer Harrilal Seecharan.
TTUTA representative Navin Ramai said the teaching staff had identified several areas of concern which included an uncovered drain and sanitisation of the school’s compound.
“They have started some work and they are nowhere close to completing the areas which we identified to EFCL that we wanted taken care of. Two of the areas are complete but there are two areas, sanitisation of the compound, it has been left more or less the same way as it was before and the drainage,” Ramai said.
“They have also excavated a new drain and they have not cordoned off the area, the drain is about 25 metres long and about two metres deep. It is unsafe for both students and teachers,” he added. He observed that while the principal was of the opinion the school was ready for reopening, the union felt the drain posed a serious safety risk.
Parent Onike Snell-Richards said she has taken her daughter, a Form Five student, out of the school and was paying a private institution for tuition as her daughter had to write CSEC examinations next year.
“The teachers, they mean well, they come out to work however given the situation and circumstances that exist in the school, they are between a rock and a hard place,” she said.
Meanwhile, parents of students attending Vance River RC in Guapo are calling on the relevant authorities to give an exact date when their children can resume classes.
Students who turned up for classes yesterday, after being home for the past month, had to return home as work on a retaining wall, which has been under construction since the school holidays, is yet to be completed.
One irate parent said, “An agreement was reached last week during a PTA meeting that school will be dismissed one hour earlier so that the workmen could work freely, but this was not done. Today (yesterday) when we brought out the children, we were told to go back home because of work that was in progress.” The parent said since the term began, every two days parents are told to send their children to school, only to have them turned away again.
“All we want is a definite date when they can come back to school. Stop have us coming here every two days with our children only to have to carry them back home. We are fed up now,” she said.
She said parents got together last week and cleaned out the entire school, scrubbed desks and chairs in an effort to speed up the process.
“We took time off from our jobs and power-washed the building, the yard and got it ready for school,” she explained. “The next thing we know, work going on outside and all the dust back in the building and the place dirty again. Of course we had to carry the children back home.” And Diego Martin Boys’ RC has been closed indefinitely for the second time this year due to a pigeon infestation.
Parent Matthew Diaz recalled in June the school was closed for three weeks because pigeons posed a health hazard to students and staff. Many students reported having eye infections and other illnesses, and one teacher said she contracted “eczema-like” symptoms because of pigeon droppings. Exterminators were hired to eradicate the pigeons, and the school opened in September without any problems.
However, Diaz said he noticed the pigeons slowly returning to the school in growing numbers.
“Two teachers got extended sick leave. On Friday gone, teachers decided to walk off and close the school half day. This morning (yesterday) when parents were dropping their children off to school, the children were being turned away,” Diaz said.
“The teachers took the position that their health and safety have been compromised. There are scores of pigeons. It is bad, especially during assembly time,” he said.
Diaz said he heard from school officials that a second extermination process has begun, but it is yet to be concluded.
Efforts to speak to Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Education Sharon Mangroo proved futile as she was said to be in a meeting.
Media relations co-ordinator at the Ministry of Education Yolanda Morales-Carvalho said the ministry has alerted the Education Facilities Company Limited (EFCL) to the problem at Diego Martin RC, but she further said “as far as we are concerned the specs that were initially requested by the school were already completed.”
Morales-Carvalho said she could not comment further on the issue as she is awaiting feedback from the EFCL officials to assess the situation. She added that the decision to close the school yesterday and dismiss half day on Friday was not a decision taken by the ministry, but by the teachers.