At least 15 pupils and staff at a middle school plagued with mould have become sick, the head of the parent teachers association said yesterday.
Albert Wilson, the president of the TN Tatem Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association, said he was aware of 11 teachers and four children who had reported illness at the school — which is to be off limits for the rest of the academic year.
Mr Wilson said: “If people are getting sick, what is causing them to get sick? That’s the grave concern.”
He added that the total number of teachers was “about 11” and that the education ministry had been informed.
Mr Wilson said he did not have an exact figure for the number of children who reported feeling ill.
He added: “I know just from parents complaining to me, that by my own estimate there’s four.”
But he said: “There probably is more, but parents haven’t come forward yet.”
Mr Wilson was speaking after Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said yesterday that the Warwick school, which was closed on Tuesday after a walkout by teachers and pupils over health fears, would stay shut until the end of the school year.
The closure order was sparked by a letter from the PTSA to education officials that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.
Cole Simons, the shadow education minister, claimed earlier this week that mould had made two teachers sick and questioned if pupils at the school had suffered similar problems.
Mr Rabain said yesterday that he was unable to say if conditions at the school had led to pupil or staff sickness.
He insisted: “We are unaware of any teachers that have been made ill, based on the reports that we have received.”
Mr Rabain said that school staff had provided health and safety reports this week.
He added: “We are in the process of reviewing them.”
Mr Rabain said that the health and safety of TN Tatem staff and pupils was of “paramount concern”.
He added: “We are taking these steps with that in mind.”
Mr Rabain said most of the work needed to fix problems at the school — including structural and water problems — were scheduled for the summer.
He added: “If we are able to repair, we have a reasonable understanding that they shouldn’t occur again.”
He said that surveys would be conducted to see if the school could be made ready for the next school year.
Mr Rabain added: “If we cannot get the school ready for September subsequent announcements will be made.”
Shannon James, the president of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said that the union backed the closure of the school for the rest of the year.
He added: “We do ask that the necessary attention be given to the school so that the teachers and students do not find themselves in this predicament two years from now.
“There are so many variables involved but the Government must ensure that they do everything in their power to ensure that the building is properly remediated.
“This cannot continue to happen.”
But Mr James questioned the use of Hamilton Fire Station as a temporary location for some TN Tatem pupils.
He said: “Since it will house the youngest of the students, the M1s, we do hope that things like how they can adjust with the new bus routes were taken into consideration.”
Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said emergency accommodation for the school had been arranged.
Pupils from the M3 class will go to Purvis Primary School in Warwick on Monday and M2 pupils will attend Heron Bay Primary School in Southampton.
Ms Richards said that M1 pupils would be taught at Hamilton Fire Station.
She added that Garita Coddington, the TN Tatem principal, would meet parents of M1 and M2 pupils at Bermuda College on Monday at 5.45pm. “At that time, she will provide specific details of next steps.”
Ms Richards said Ms Coddington would meet the parents of M3 pupils a week later. She added that Ms Coddington would meet school staff on Monday to discuss the relocation.
Ms Richards said: “All of the staff will be given some time to plan and to prepare for the transition, which we certainly hope will be a smooth one.
“We hope that the transition to other schools will be smooth for students and staff.”
But Mr Wilson said that he was concerned about disruption for pupils and that parents should have been consulted.
He added: “The parents have not been a part of the conversation before these decisions were made.”
Mr Wilson said a political blame game on who was responsible for the crisis at the school was “a total waste of time”.
He added: “What happens is that we get caught up in the politics and we forget about the children.”
Mr Wilson said: “Whether you’re OBA or PLP, all your kids are part of this education system.”