A senior teacher at Combermere School has called for the institution to be permanently closed, with immediate effect.
Complaining that the health of both students and teachers was at risk, Head of the History department, Reverend Charles Morris believes the century-old school has served its time.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY this evening, shortly after news broke that the school had been prematurely closed due to a foul odour, Morris said Combermere had been battling with environmental problems for the past decade.
He revealed that conditions at the Waterford, St Michael institution had gotten so bad that dozens of students were now going home sick on a daily basis.
“The immediate priority of the Ministry right now is to close that school permanently and to find someplace for the students to go.
“Teachers are complaining about not feeling well, students are complaining and I am going to give to a conservative estimate that at least 25 students each day go home sick, and that is conservative. Parents on a daily basis are coming for students, teachers are complaining, students are going into classrooms and they are sleeping, students are complaining of having itching bodies, running eyes, coughing . . . if a day passes that students do not go home sick then believe the Lord is coming,” a frustrated Morris disclosed.
“If I had a cat I would not let it go to Comberemere!”
According to the school’s principal Vere Parris, the foul odour was emitting from nearby trees.
“Persons have recognized the smell to be that of these particular trees which may have been damaged in some way or other. Those trees give off that odour, which becomes quite offensive,” he said.
Parris added that it was not the first time the school was disrupted by the odour. He said once the trees were confirmed as the source of problem, they would be removed.
But Morris described the principal’s reasoning as “rubbish”, saying it was just the latest in a string of environmental issues plaguing the school over the past ten years.
Last year the school was forced to close its doors on several occasions because of environmental problems, with students having to be housed at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic.
The Reverend, who has been teaching there for 34 years, argued that each time a problem was reported at the school a different reason was given.
“They said it was the wells, they said it was sewerage, they said it was grease traps and now they are saying it’s because of trees . . . there are too many inconsistencies,” Morris complained.
“You cannot tell me that over a two-year period every time something breaks out it is a different reason,” he argued.
“Daily students are suffering and the truth is that Combermere ought to be closed. I cannot take it any longer and if I am a priest and I sit down and see these things happening that are wrong and I say nothing, I am just as culpable.
He said the school’s authorities were preoccupied “with their own self image and maintaining their positions” but insisted that this should not be “at the expense of my health and the health of our students”.
Morris revealed that only recently after being assured by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education that a thorough cleaning of the school had been done, students returned to school to find classrooms littered with rat droppings, as well as mold and mosquitoes.