Will the results of the mold tests on St Kitts’ Cayon High School be made public this week?
As the closure of St Kitts’ Cayon High School enters its fourth week on Monday 23 September, 2019, parents, students and teachers are asking one question: When will the ministers of education and health inform them of the results of the two sets of mold tests conducted in Miami, Forida and the Bureau of Standards in Basseterre.
The school has been infested with mold since mid 2018, but according to several sources, attempts were made to keep the situation under cover.
Teachers, parents and students are hoping that the Minister of Education, Shawn Richards and the two Ministers of Health, Eugene Hamilton and Senator Wendy Phipps will inform them of the results of the tests.
The issue of mold infestation first occurred in 2018 and again in March and May this year when teachers became ill and tests returned positive of high levels of mold in their blood streams. Teachers also signed a petition before the end of the 2018/2019 school year in an attempt to prod the relevant ministries into action.
Instead of using the two-month summer vacation in July and August to take the necessary action, the Ministry of Education waited until one week before the official opening of school to conducts tests. On August 26, most teachers refused to enter the building for a staff meeting in preparation for the official start of the new 2019/2010 new school year on September 2.
Steam cleaning of the buildings began on September 9th and according to sources several pieces of furniture were severly damaged, thus creating further problems.
Fifth formers who are preparing for the annual CXC exams in May are being accommodated at the Cayon Primary School, while students from forms one to four remain at home.
Comparing the situation at the Basseterre High School in 2013 and 2014, Chairman of the St Kitts-Nevis Labour Party, Dr Terrance Drew has referred to the conclusion of the report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which is a part of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which found that the Basseterre High School “did not have a major mold problem.”
“What took place with the Basseterre High School was the biggest political travesty that took place in our country,” said Dr Drew who accused the Team Unity candidates, some of whom are now ministers of government, the then management of the BHS and the St Kitts Teachers Union of “abusing the children, lying to their parents and lying to the country. Teachers were playing doctors.”
He said that the specialists from NIOSH came to St Kitts and like the local scientists, the Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA), the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), also based in Trinidad, recommended that the buildings of the BHS could be inhabited after remedial works are completed.
“The first line in the NIOSH report concludes ‘we did not find any major mole problems at the school during our assessment,’ Dr Drew read.
He recalled that prior to winning the 2015 elections the Team Unity promised to build a brand new BHS. On taking office in February 2015, education minister Richards along with the cabinet stated they were “erring on the side of caution,’ rejected all of the scientific reports, closed the two BHS campuses, built a multi-million dollar temporary wooden structure to house the students at Taylors and unveiled plans for a new BHS at a preliminary cost of EC$100 million on the Basseterre Valley Aquifer.