Education Minister Ronald Jones believes the work being carried out at Combermere School to address environmental concerns ???is progressing quite well???.
The Minister got an early progress report on Monday, April 27, as he, along with officials from his Ministry, Ministry of Health environment health officers and Principal Vere Parris, toured the facility at Waterford, which remains closed for a second week.
???Work has been quite rapid and will be still ongoing,??? he said, as he noted more had to be done to ensure all parties were satisfied and that ???those who have to give us that all clear would have the kind of knowledge which would allow for it???.
Mr. Jones thanked all involved in the efforts of helping to achieve the goal and singled out the Ministries of Health, Labour, Education, the School???s Board of Management and the Barbados Secondary Teachers??? Union (BSTU) for understanding ???what true and genuine partnership??? was all about.
When asked if the Union had forced the hand of the Ministry in dealing with the matter, the Minister stressed this was not the case. He said it was about ???progressive movement towards trying to find a solution???, and thankfully the BSTU was on board in the efforts which led to the final conclusions by all.
He also noted that the decision to resume classes at Combermere would be informed by the experts. ???The Ministry of Labour, whose task it is to give us that direction, will so do. When we get that direction, we will then be able to say to the students, teachers and all the parties concerned that school will recommence here at Combermere,??? he remarked.
Noting that the fifth and sixth forms were currently accommodated at Erdiston Teachers??? Training College, so as not to disadvantage them in their efforts to write CXC CAPE and CSEC subjects, he said of the other students: ???If we have to go beyond a certain time line they (other students) would be accommodated in other places.???
Principal Parris, while explaining that the work had been ongoing for some time, said: ???The school never sat idly by while other persons complained. You would have heard the Minister talk about stories in the Press and a number of those were rather inaccurate, as well as a lot of speculation.
This school, through its administration and Board, and the ministry, were all kept informed of what had been experienced here by both staff and students. And, decisions were taken to ensure that we bring this plant back into the kind of shape that we would want it to be and that people would be comfortable, in terms of looking after the health of students and all categories of staff.???
He pointed out that work would have started back in 2013 when they first heard of any kind of challenges. ???We replaced the first septic tank and the other challenges of the natural gas leaks – we had repaired and replaced lines.
“It was rather surprising that after so many efforts to have all the natural gas lines checked, we still learnt that there was one that was just repaired about a day or two ago. And, we were happy that it was detected because it really should have been detected much earlier,??? he said.