The Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) plans to seek an urgent meeting with the Ministry of Education to come up with measures to address environmental issues facing the staff and students of the Springer Memorial School.
Following a meeting with the teachers and the principal of the Government Hill, St Michael secondary school, BSTU President Mary Redman told Barbados TODAY the teachers were complaining about noise and dust coming from a construction site to the east of the school, as well as a stench that they have linked to the cleaning of chemical toilets.
She said these challenges were affecting teachers’ ability to conduct classes “in a way they would want to”.
“Many teachers have complained of falling ill and having to seek medical attention,” said Redman.
The construction of a reservoir at the Grand View location adjacent to the school has been cited as the cause of the concerns.
Due to the dust and noise emanating from the project, first and second form students were sent home for the remainder of the term in order to allow senior students, who were most affected, to relocate.
Redman said while the school’s administration had put remedial measures in place, including increased cleaning of desks and classrooms, that was still not enough.
“We are going to speak with the Permanent Secretary [in the Ministry of Education] and try to get a meeting to see exactly what the plans are with regard to measures the Ministry will put in place for next term,” said Redman.
Saying that the issue was one of urgency, Redman said depending on how far the construction was able to advance during the upcoming Easter Holiday break, the Ministry of Education would need to come up with a plan to mitigate the impact going forward.
Redman could not say what the likely measures would be or the next step failing that, but added that she would be seeking to get the meeting “as soon as possible, so that we have things set in place so that if not A, then B and everybody is clear”.
She said while the construction at the location was not connected with the Ministry of Education, she believed there was also an issue of lack of timely communication along the way.
“To my mind, there is a lack of proper planning and projection,” said Redman.
Following a meeting with the company carrying out the construction of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) project at the location, it was agreed that heavy drilling would not be done during school hours. That has since taken effect.
However, Redman said the use of machinery and the loading of the rubble onto trucks during school hours were “seriously impacting both teachers and students”.
In a statement issued this evening by the Government Information Service, the Ministry of Education acknowledged that “a higher concentration of dust” in the surrounding area had negatively impacted on one block at the school.
Giving the assurance that it would continue to monitor the situation, the Ministry said the contractors had given an assurance that steps would be taken to minimize the dust affecting the school.
“This would be done by use of a sprinkler system, raising of the dust barrier and the removal of all stored material on site,” the statement said.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the construction site minutes after one o’clock today, an excavator was piling up earth that was already dug up.
Foreman Peter Springer confirmed that the two sides had agreed that no drilling would take place during school hours and that decision has since taken effect.
“All of that is done between the hours on morning 6:30 and 9 o’clock, and then again from 3:00 – 6:30 in the evening. Anytime during the day you could pass by, you would see the excavator working as it is now. We are just piling stuff or loading trucks, but that is as much as it is,” he said.
The project, which started in January, is expected to last six months.