Statement From The Deputy Prime Minister On The Basseterre High School


PRESS RELEASE

St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS)

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Shawn Richards

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education Shawn Richards

The Basseterre High School situation continues to be a matter of significant concern and priority for the government. It is for this reason, that I address you at this time.

During the last two sessions of Parliament, I provided you with an update on the Basseterre High School situation. I indicated to you then that your government is working relentlessly towards bringing a solution to this matter. I also shared with you that we have been consulting with stakeholders at every step of the way to arrive at a consensus and that you would be further updated as decisions were made.

Most of us are aware that the Basseterre High School campus was closed for the last two school terms after prolonged complaints of various illnesses by staff and students which many believed to be as a result of problems at the school. Several reputable agencies such as the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI), International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), inspected and performed tests at the school. These agencies did not find any sole causative factor but reported that the health problems seemed to be related to the school environment and were multifactorial in nature. The former Government attempted to rectify the issues. However, the health issues continued unabated.

Subsequently, in May 2015, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), an American agency, conducted tests which identified areas that needed further remedial work.

Hence, all of the reports have so far been inconclusive as to the reason behind the many illnesses and problems encountered by the staff and students of the Basseterre High School. The Government of National Unity has decided that it would err on the side of caution. The health and well being of students and staff at the BHS are of paramount importance to us. We will build a new school. It is not the intention of this government to continue to put the health of these citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis at risk.

During the last two school terms the students and staff of the BHS, along with those from the Washington Archibald High School, shared facilities at the WAHS and operated on a shift system. Some students attended school in the morning and the others in the evening. This shift system presented numerous challenges. Noteworthy is the reduction of teacher to student contact time, decreased participation in extra curricular activities, and growing concerns by parents of their limited supervision of children. Therefore, it is the aim of this Government to bring an end to the shift system.

For the new school year 2015, the Government of St Kitts and Nevis will continue to house the children of the Basseterre High School in temporary accommodations until a new school is built. In collaboration with the stakeholders, the following alternative and temporary arrangements were arrived at.

The students will be situated in several locations all within a small radius:

The first formers, along with the staff, will be accommodated at the Warner Park Cricket Stadium. It is proposed that the second formers will be accommodated in spaces at the Methodist School Room. Negotiations are underway. The third formers will be housed in an already constructed wooden building that will be moved from the grounds of BHS to the parking lot area at WAHS. This building will be completely sanitised before the third formers take possession of it. The fourth formers will be provided space at the Washington Archibald High School. The fifth formers will continue to occupy the space at the Premier Dental building that they used last term. Children in Learning Support classes will be housed in spaces at the Zion Moravian Church Complex.

Additional auxiliary staff will be deployed to the BHS to facilitate security and effective transitioning of students and teachers throughout the school day. A further meeting will shortly be convened with the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) of both institutions to discuss this arrangement.

With regards to the housing of the first formers, second formers and staff, this arrangement is only expected to last for the first term. Very shortly, construction will commence on buildings to more comfortably and adequately accommodate these persons.

Over the past weeks, the government has been evaluating several different solutions with regard to temporary structures. It looked at bringing modular units out of the United States at a cost of over four million EC dollars. It also looked at constructing wooden buildings at a cost of approximately three million EC dollars. The pros and cons of each building type were evaluated by the stakeholders along with technical persons within and outside of the government. A decision has now been taken by the Cabinet to build three (3) new building blocks with six (6) classrooms in each building at a temporary site. These buildings will be a hybrid of the modular and wooden type and are budgeted at a cost of 3.3 million EC dollars. Each building will be connected via canopy links and will be outfitted with water heater coolers and sinks.

Additionally, there will be seated benches, air conditioning and ceiling fans along with fire extinguishers. They will each have an eight hundred gallon vertical potable water tank attached to them with a pump system. Space will be provided for refuse and waste enclosure and a galvanise chain link fence will be erected around the premises. The work on the structures are expected to take fifteen (15) weeks. Hence, these new spaces should be fully ready for occupation for the second school term which commences January 4th, 2016.

On behalf of the government and the Ministry of Education, I wish to thank ALL the stakeholders, especially the teachers and parents, for their patience, understanding and input as we strive to bring an end to the BHS situation. In particular, I thank the Churches, Premier Dental, and most certainly the staff and students of the WAHS for their most invaluable co-operation and assistance in this most difficult period for the Ministry of Education and by extension the entire Country. The government remains resolute in its commitment to bringing about a permanent solution to this situation. The technical persons from the relevant ministries have already been hard at work on the necessary plans for the construction of a new school.

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