The recurring mysterious environmental problems that have plagued Combermere School since the last academic year have again forced Government to shut down the school.
The Ministry of Education Tuesday evening issued a statement through the Barbados Government Information Service advising that the Waterford, St Michael learning institution would be closed until further notice.
It said the closure was to allow the ministry to further investigate the environmental issues identified by staff and students.
The ministry also said it was in the process of securing suitable alternate accommodation for the school population and that parents and teachers would be informed in the coming days.
The announcement from the Ministry of Education followed an abrupt end to classes around midday today, after teachers complained of itching and burning, prompting the staff to walk off the job at around 11 a.m.
Senior Teacher Reverend Charles Morris told Barbados TODAY that members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers, Union (BSTU) were at the school discussing the very issue when the problem flared up again. Permission was later given by the ministry to end classes early.
“We had a union meeting at the Combermere School this morning and that was to inform and decide what we are going to do [about the environmental issue]. During the process of the meeting, teachers get down sick and even some of the members of the union who were not from Combermere, who came to Combermere just for the meeting, got sick as well. Some the union members who came in from other schools, complained of itching and burning and all kind of things,” Morris said.
The outspoken Morris, who in the past has clashed with Principal Vere Parris over the issue, said that one of the teachers was so ill that she had to be removed from the compound.
It was the gravity of this incident which sparked the exodus of staff members, he said.
Morris, who in an interview with Barbados TODAY in early March had called for the school to be permanently closed, added that he was unsure about the future of the institution, as many staff members had indicated an unwillingness to return to the compound.
“This thing is now affecting people mentally. I don’t know why but I was actually scared. Combermere is not a safe place for us, it is not a safe place for the administration of education. I find it hard to see young children collapsing. It is not an easy scene at all . . . . I don’t know what other teachers are doing but I don’t think I could work there any more,” the Anglican cleric stressed.
Meanwhile the BSTU has announced a meeting for its members at the Barbados Workers Union headquarters at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
President Mary Redman told Barbados TODAY that a number of the issues have been placed on the agenda, including the problem at Combermere.