The Minister expressed some confidence in the progress of the work currently being undertaken for the rehabilitation of the classrooms and other facilities.
Carty was at the time addressing members of the media as he provided an update on the ongoing restoration project that became necessary after almost two years of complaints about contamination and illnesses caused to students and teachers. The press conference also had a brief report from the Caribbean Public Health Agency, CARPHA.
There was no representation from the School or the Ministry of Health.
“We are here because after Caribbean Industrial Research Institution (CARIRI) submitted their report on the 10th of June, we were asked as Government agencies, the Ministries of Health, Education and Public Works, to work collaboratively with all stakeholders to implement the recommendations which had been made,” Carty explained.
The Senator further noted that the recommendations were based on physical work that needed to be done and putting in place plans such as maintenance, hygiene, indoor air quality and a communication strategy.
When asked if the school would be ready for the new term coming in September, Carty said, “That is our hope, we have given the commitment to all the stakeholders that will be working with CARPHA as the lead agency advising us on that.”
Carty then said that throughout the process, one of the many things that the Ministry has tried to do is make sure there is maximum transparency in what they are doing.
He added that one of the decisions made, was to have CARPHA decide the readiness of the Basseterre High School.
Meanwhile, Dr. Babatunde Olowokure, from CARPHA told media persons that the recommendations provided by the organization, were based on their findings, as well as a review of previous reports from CARIRI.
“Overall we have found the remediation efforts and the implementation of those measures to be satisfactory. This was based on a two level assessment for each recommendation and that is whether each recommendation was deemed to be satisfactory or there was no compliance,” the official said.
He added that major improvements have been made to the school’s laboratories, such as the installation of extractor fans, replacement of louver windows and the appropriate shelving of chemicals in the lab.
‘All wet and damp materials and items such as books, have been disposed of which means we will have a reduced possibility of having mold growing on those materials and providing potential for irritation of skin or respiratory track,” Olowokure said.
He added that Pest Control measures have been put in place to ensure that the environment has a minimum number of pests such as rats and cockroaches that may be present.
“The water quality available within the school environment was also checked and this was found to be adequate in terms of the amount of bacteria potentially within the system,” the CARPHA representative explained.
Olowokure then noted, that the entire septic system within the school has been tested using what is termed as “a blue flush test”. ‘This test basically uses a blue dye, which is flushed through the system and if there are leakages within the system, then that blue dye will usually be identified on the surface,”
He added that the Blue Dye test has been carried out twice at the Basseterre High School and as such no leakages were found.
The Doctor further revealed that mold was discovered in the theatre arts office and has since been removed, adding that the wall was also remediated.
“The flat roof above that office has also been repaired and would now appear to be sufficiently robust for purposes and we will be asking the school authorities and the government to maintain an eye on that to make sure that there is no further seepage of water,” Dr. Olowokure said.
He added that samples were taking in nine areas, and there was one which tested high for coliform, and recommended that there be a repeat of samples in that area.
“Three samples will be taken today and we will take them with us for testing in our laboratory in St. Lucia. We have also advised that the chlorine levels in the pipe water of school to be increased,” the official said.
Olowokure said that there was a low chlorine level in the pipes.
Within the last year, an increase number of teachers and students have been diagnosed with illnesses associated to the environmental conditions that existed in the school.
Teachers and students had reported many symptoms such as: face and eye burning sensation, itchy throat and skin, upper respiratory issues, skin discolouration and abrasions, vertigo/dizziness etc. and some have even been hospitalized due to illnesses associated.