After more than a year of disruptions, the mystery surrounding the foul odour that has permeated the Combermere School compound has finally been solved.
Following “an extensive and fairly rigorous” examination, a team of technical specialists has concluded that chemical waste from Science labs, was one of the main reasons behind the pungent smell that forced the school’s closure last November.
However, following a four-week sewage assessment, that problem has now been fully rectified, clearing the way for Combermere’s official re-opening on Tuesday.
This was the assurance given to parents and guardians who attended a meeting convened by the Ministry of Education at the school just after 1 p.m. Friday.
The research team, made of five Combermere old scholars and headed by Health and Safety Environmentalist Brian Reece, also examined air quality, moisture levels and storage practices at the Waterford, St Michael institution.
“We did quite an extensive and fairly rigorous regime of testing and analyses to ensure that we covered all our bases,” the lead researcher said.
The group, which also included Chemistry lecturer Dr Leah Garner-O’Neale, civil engineer Greg Parris, industrial hygienist Ian Weekes and occupational physician Dr Euclid Morris, also suggested that inappropriate storage and management of chemicals in the Science block may have contributed to the noxious odours that were noticeable for months.
However, parents were assured parents that measures had been taken to prevent a recurrence and that a clean-up initiative was currently in motion.
During the meeting, Chief Education Officer Karen Best was adamant that Combermere School would be ready to receive students on Tuesday, saying, “There is no but”.
Her comment was met with thunderous applause by parents who expressed concern that teachers were still not fully onboard with the school’s re-opening.
“In our opinion and we are taking the lead from the Ministry of Labour the school is ready for students on Tuesday,” Best emphasized.
Given the latest five-week closure which came on the heels of numerous interruptions, parents also demanded to know how the school would make up for the lost time. However, principal Vere Parris could only say that the matter would be up for discussion between management and the teachers who are scheduled to meet on Monday.
“In whatever way we can, we will be making up for the time that has been lost,” he added.
In the meantime, the return of teachers will depend on the outcome of a tour of the compound by members of the Barbados Secondary Teachers Union (BSTU) on Monday.
Friday, the union met for three hours with officials of the Ministry at its Constitution Road headquarters.
Following those talks which ended just after 7 p.m., the Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministry of Education, Senator Harry Husbands, expressed optimism that all teaching staff would be present for Tuesday’s reopening.
However, BSTU President Mary Redman suggested that the matter was not a done deal.
She told reporters that it was the prerogative of the ministry to “open and close schools”. However, she said the final decision on whether teachers return to Combermere would be revealed after their tour on Monday. [email protected].