Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones. (FP)

Education officials are paying attention to “what appears as a deliberate attempt to sabotage the work” which Government, along with its partners, carried out at Combermere School, over the last several months.

Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, disclosed this on Tuesday in the House of Assembly as he delivered a Ministerial Statement on Issues Affecting the Combermere School and Initiatives Taken To Return the School to Full Operation.

Citing incidents which occurred last month, he said: “On Thursday, 26th January, 2017, hand towels and children’s book leaves were found to be blocking drainage pipes in a toilet in the area where some complaints had originated. This act would have allowed sewage gases to have been released into those spaces if they were not identified and corrected by an external plumber and artisan at the school.

“On Monday, the 31st January, a similar incident occurred, which would have had the same effect.  I’m sad, Sir, to report that last week we found after closure of one of the labs, where natural gas is present, that on return of the teacher to that lab, it was found – and that was some 45 minutes after her exit – that two of those natural gas pipes were turned on and left on in that lab. Vigilance has ensured that its impact on the school was nullified.”

The Education Minister gave the assurance that the situation at the school was still being closely monitored.  He told his Parliamentary colleagues that with satisfactory progress having been made in rectifying the problems, Combermere had resumed operations with the return of the 1,130 students and the staff at the opening of this last school term.  And, he also expressed confidence that there would be no further “untamed mysteries compromising operations at the school”.

Addressing the cost of the work, Mr. Jones said the first closure of the school, in 2015, saw approximately $400,000 being spent on testing, guttering, general repairs, examination and cleaning of septic tanks and various manholes, as well as the overall cleaning of the school. Furthermore, he added that to address these matters and challenges that emerged last term, Government made provision for a further $450,000 to be allocated.

According to the Education Minister, some $40,000 was spent on offsite storage and the professional removal of old chemicals; additional toilets for female students to accommodate the large female population at the cost of $40,000; $105,000 for new composite countertops for four of the science labs; and $42,000 for repairs to one prefab for additional teaching space.  It was also noted that $80,000 was spent on cleaning the school plant, internally and externally, inclusive of mould remediation for specific rooms.

However, Mr. Jones pointed out that there are still areas on the school plant requiring attention, including the installation of roof guttering to control flooding north of the Science Block.  And, he added that the undersized existing grease trap in the kitchen needed to be replaced and they were looking to relocate the extractor fans to improve and rectify the ventilation of the school’s sick bay and the secretary/treasurer’s office.

Commending the private professionals who worked on the school “entirely free and without compensation”, Mr. Jones made mention of the voluntary work of Engineer, Grenville Phillips, and the Independent Team of Brian Reece, Greg Parris, Dr. Leah Garner-O’Neal and Ian Weekes.

Two Ministry personnel – Senior Draughtsman of the Education Project Implementation Unit, Andrew Parris; and Combermere’s artisan, Rukti Parris – were also commended for “their unswerving dedication to getting the job done and putting in extended personal time and effort at every stage”.

Combermere was confronted with a series of environmental issues impacting users due to various factors, from May 2014 to December 2016.

To read the full statement on Combermere from Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, please click [media-downloader media_id=”25815″ texts=”here”].

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