Categorized | National News

Dump Smoke Closes Schools

With every assurance last Friday that the fire burning at the Landfill would be extinguished by the weekend, schools in Southwestern New Providence had to make a snap decision yesterday to close schools because of a thick blanket of smoke that engulfed the campuses.

Parents of students of the St. John’s College (SJC) and H.O Nash Junior High School, were told to take their children back after they attempted to drop their children off early yesterday morning.

Principal of St. John’s, Dr. Nevillene Evans said that having to send the students home was disappointing as special activities were planned for the day.

“I arrived to work 6:45 and there was a slight dew or fog low to the ground and ten minutes later the campus was just totally engulfed with smoke.

“So, I contacted the Director of Education of Anglican Schools. I sent her the photos and the decision was made in consultation with our nurse to just not have classes today.

“That was just sad news for SJC, because this is Monday morning and we had planned to celebrate literacy. Our prep department had a fantastic assembly planned to celebrate literacy and our secondary department were going to celebrate Bahamian History Month; but we had to postpone both of those activities,” Dr. Evans said.

Dr. Evans further confirmed that last year the school also lost a few days because of smoke from the Landfill.

“It’s really so sad because we dealt with a similar situation last year. It’s an ongoing vexing situation that really needs to be addressed because we are looking also at instruction time take away the activities, but the instruction time which is so very, very important,” Dr. Evans said.

She stated that as a result of losing the day, the administration would have to come up with a plan to make up the lost time.

“You are talking about six hours; how do we make up six hours? And we know that our students don’t want to come in on a Saturday or a Sunday, but we are going to have to make the time up.

“Mock exams are approximately four weeks away, so therefore these six hours were really critical and crucial, and students are already working on Saturdays.

“But we will put our heads together and we will find a way to make up the instruction time,” Dr. Evans said.

Dr. Evans also acknowledged the health of the students was the other deciding factor for abruptly ending the school day.

“The factor here is also a serious health factor. We have children who are asthmatic; we have children who are managing chest situations now just because of the time of the year it is and so we really have to keep that in mind.

“Our classrooms right now, the windows are open because the smoke was trapped on the inside and so we have to get some fresh air in,” Dr. Evans said.

The Journal spoke with at least two parents who indicated that although the situation is frustrating, they acknowledged the school has the students best interest at heart.

Sherelle Rolle, parent of a tenth grader said that the administration made the right decision to close school.

However she underscored that the students will be losing valuable time.

“With regards to school being closed, because of the smoke from the dump, it is frustrating because this is time that they are going to be missing, work that they now have to go and make up.

“But what else can the school do? The children’s best interest comes first. I prefer them not to be in school than to be there and then some other issues come up,” Mrs. Rolle said.

Mrs. Rolle indicated that after many governments in and out of power, the burning of the Landfill still has yet to be resolved.

“We have had government after government come and go and it doesn’t seem like the dump situation is going to get any better,” she said.

Parent of a fourth grader, Mr. Morely, echoed the sentiments of Dr. Evans stating that the smoke is horrible.

“Once that fire burns, any cold front or anything that we have it sits on you. I live in the middle of the island and that sits in your house, in your curtain, it really is horrible.

“I’m glad they let it out; they called all the parents because the smoke was really bad. We are still breathing it in the after effect is still here.

“I can understand them calling the parents I take no chance with health,” Mr. Morely said.

Aside from this, principal, Dr. Evans said that the issue needs to be addressed speedily.

“I know it’s a very difficult situation and it appears to be an expensive situation.

“I don’t know, maybe it might mean relocating, I don’t know, like I said I don’t have the answer, but I feel as though more time need to be put into resolving the problem and find the money,” Dr. Evans said.

Director of Education in the Ministry of Education Marcellus Taylor, said that the administrators at H.O. Nash assessed the situation and used their discretion.

“We have certain levels of discretion that we provide school administrators to make the principal and the school administrators; the District Superintendent, they were there.

They assessed and in their estimation it was a high smell and so they thought it would be better to close the school because of that; because in the past some people have gotten sick and so forth and so they didn’t want to expose people,” Mr. Taylor said.

Both schools are expected to re-open this morning.

The government is expected to put forth a Request For Proposal or RFP for potential investors and management services for the deconstruction, remediation and operation of the Landfill this week.

Minister of Environment Ramould Ferriera has explained that the successful applicant will be required to pay a non-refundable registration fee of $10,000 and expected to submit proposals to the Tenders Board by March 31st. The plan is to select a preferred bidder by May.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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