Dr Wheatley’s statement comes after a teacher from the mould-infested Ivan Dawson Primary School took to social media to express her discontent with the ministry’s effort to tackle the issue, which she believes contributed to her present and previous hospitalisations over the years.
Responding to questions from BVI News late Monday, Dr Wheatley said: “It must be noted that school has been closed since early this year. Any question about that school making anyone sick recently, I would not be aware of that but just to say the school has been closed for months upon months.”
He added: “Despite any announcements which may have been made generally across schools, we won’t open a particular school if the conditions are not satisfactory. That is an indication of the level of care that we take when it comes to our employees. Especially Ivan Dawson Primary School in Cane Garden Bay, we’ve decided not to open that school until the issues there are rectified, and other schools will follow.”
Dr Wheatleysaid his ministry has been actively working to rectify the mould issue across schools and believes it is not a one-time fix, but an issue that would need consistent maintenance.
“Even before any Facebook post, we have been assessing the schools for work that needs to be done as it pertains to mould and other things. That work is ongoing and we take the safety of our employees in the Ministry of Education very seriously and I have asked that any situation in any school that is a potential threat to health be brought to my attention so we can address it quickly,” he said.
“What we have asked for is enough resources not just to do cleanings but to do regular maintenance. So it is a constant effort to make sure that the schools stay free of mould or anything that threatens the health of employees or students or our administrators. We are going to systematically ensure that the schools are in a state that is acceptable as it pertains to protecting the health of the employees, the students and the administrators,” he explained.
The education minister further said the mould development is linked to the compromised infrastructure of the affected schools which must be rectified.
He said: “Some of the schools have some infrastructural challenges where, based on how the schools were constructed, water is getting inside the schools, and persons know that having moisture would cause mould. So even as we have cleaned schools in the past, when the water gets into the schools, it can cause mould.”
“So we would have to do ongoing cleanings, but we have to fix some of the root problems which have to do with perhaps the issues with the roof, etcetera. So that work is ongoing, I have the support of the Minister of Finance to be able to get whatever additional funds necessary to do the work to fix the schools,” he stated.
At the time of the interview, information on the total number of affected schools across the territory was not available.
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