Autistic pupils still in temporary classroom

  • Parent involvement appreciated: Kalmar Richards, Commissioner of Education (File photograph)

Schoolchildren on a special autism programme are still stuck in temporary accommodation three months after they were forced out of their classroom because of health fears.

Selessia Watson, whose six-year-old son, Dante, is a pupil on the Paget Primary School-based programme, said the school and the education ministry had still not responded to several requests about when the youngsters would return to their regular classroom.

Ms Watson said: “We haven’t had any updates.

“I have asked, but no one can tell us anything. I know that they had to do tests and that they would take a week.

“We saw them down there cleaning and there has been nothing since.”

Problems started in September when the classroom’s air purifier started to give off an offensive smell and tests were ordered, which meant the children had to move.

The temporary classroom had to be cleared of junk and pests and had no counter space for the children to put their belongings.

The classroom also overlooks the school’s car park, which Ms Watson said could be a distraction for the Active Learners Programme pupils.

Ms Watson added: “My son is not settled. The children don’t have anywhere to put their bags they just have a seat in a classroom — it is not really a classroom.

“I feel like the school or ministry needs to communicate with us — they keep saying they are going to and then they don’t.

“I met with someone from the ministry and they said that the principal would get back to me and have a meeting with the parents but she never did.”

Ms Watson said: “I feel like our children should matter, too.

“It’s like they are second-class citizens at their own school. The teachers and para-educators are wonderful. It is just that I feel that under the school itself — it is like our children are not welcome. That is how I feel.”

Kalmar Richards, the education commissioner, said that the source of the foul smell had been traced to rotten wooden cupboards and that the children were expected to return to their regular classroom after the Christmas holidays.

She added: “The Department of Education believes that every child is important and that every child deserves to learn in an environment that is clean, safe and where they have the emotional support needed to succeed.

“Since the Department of Education was informed of the challenges at Paget Primary, we have identified the source of the odour and ensured that the room purifier is operating and that the rotting old wooden cabinets have been removed.

Ms Richards added that painting work and tiling had been carried out and final sanitisation of the classroom was due to start this week.

She said that the Department of Education supported the teachers and the principal at Paget Primary.

Ms Richards added: “They work every day to provide excellent teaching and instruction for students in the autism programme.

“The autism programme has been at Paget Primary since 2012 and has received incredible input and assistance from parents and the community.

“We appreciate parent involvement and engagement and I encourage parents to continue to lend their support where they can.”