Stories by Sheria Brathwaite
The Ministry of Education is open to assistance from the private sector or any interested party, locally, regionally or globally, as it searches for a solution to environmental issues plaguing the Lawrence T. Gay Memorial School.
Minister Kay McConney said officials are yet to determine the source of the pungent smell that has left students and staff with headaches, burning skin and other illnesses, and would appreciate help getting to the bottom of the situation.
“We have had meetings with the Ministry of Health, Environmental Department, neighbours, parents, [the] principal, schools [and] teachers. We have met with a wide cross-section of the community that has been impacted by the L T Gay situation and, as you know, we have not yet found anything on the premises of L T Gay despite several tests that have been made by various organisations to ensure that the
problem was not on the plant,” she said on Wednesday, following the donation of water coolers by the Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies at the St Martin’s-Mangrove Primary School.
“There is some consideration that the issue might be in the surrounding areas. However, we have to get the right test done. We engaged with some private sector persons as well as Government agencies to be able to get the right kind of testing done for some areas where they suspect it could possibly be.
“The challenge at this time is that while they have the equipment, there are parts for the equipment that are not on the island for them to be able to use the testing equipment. But we are continuing to accept any offer of support from others in the private sector or anywhere in the Caribbean or the world who might be able to help us further identify. But the bottom line is, we have met with many stakeholders and we are exploring every single option there is for us to be able to resolve this problem,” the Education Minister added.
The Spooner’s Hill, St Michael school was closed several times in recent years because of environmental issues.
Students and staff, especially those based on the Carlisle Clarke Block which houses Class 2, 3 and 4 students, have complained of a pungent, gaseous smell that was causing them headaches, burning sensations in the throat and eyes, and/or itchy skin.
The school closed in 2016 and again in 2019. In January 2020, students were relocated to various churches. Classes were also disrupted in May this year and the school was again closed.
Earlier this month, after complaints resurfaced, students and staff were moved to the Grace Hill Moravian Church, Sharon Moravian Church and Church of Christ The King.
Deputy Chief Education Officer Joy Adamson said officers from the Ministry were monitoring classes at the off-campus sites to see how things were progressing.
“Our officers are going on a regular basis to monitor what’s happening at those sites. We have no issues at the sites and most of the staff can’t wait to get back onto the school compound. So we are working to make sure that we identify where the offensive odour is coming from so that we can get them back onto the school compound,” she said.
Adamson added that classes at the three churches would continue until at least the end of this term.
“And we will continue to do our investigations and continue to work with the Ministry of Labour, Environmental Protection Department [and] the Ministry of Health to make sure that we try to isolate and find out what the issue is,” she said.
When contacted, the president of the Barbados Union of Teachers Rudy Lovell said his union had already suggested that the Ministry seek outside help, particularly from the private sector, in identifying the source of the problem.