Minister of Education Jeff Lloyd is hopeful that an early morning meeting between his ministry and the Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT); will put an end to a nine-day impasse between teachers and administration at C.H. Reeves Junior High School.
Lloyd announced that he and BUT officials will meet Friday morning to bring an immediate end to an ongoing battle which has left hundreds of students without their teachers just weeks away from end-of-term exams and six months shy of external Bahamas Junior Certificate (BJC) examinations.
His announcement came during a heated Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meeting held at the school’s auditorium Thursday night.
“I have asked the acting president [of the BUT, Joan Knowles-Turnquest] to meet with me in my office at 9:00 a.m. tomorrow to resolve this once and for all because this must come to an end,” he asserted.
“Nothing is more important than affording these children the benefit of our knowledge and experience.
“The union and my team will resolve this tomorrow.”
Teachers walked off the job last week Monday due to what they claimed was a hazardous working environment.
Video footage given to Eyewitness News last week revealed that a number of classrooms contained what appeared to be mold spores.
Tempers flared during the PTA meeting Thursday evening as teachers, parents, school administrators and Ministry of Education officials met to strategize a way forward.
School administration claimed Thursday night that air quality tests have been ran on all of the classrooms which were being brought into questions by teachers.
The test results indicated that the classrooms were safe environments and that teachers should return to work, school administration confirmed.
However, teachers said they want a second opinion.
“Our rooms have been deemed safe for occupancy for teachers and students and so we have kids in all of our rooms; students are in those rooms being supervised by administrators, prefects and also supply teachers,” Andre Nairn, C.H. Reeves Acting Principal said.
Ketress Wells, District Shop Steward, rebutted Nairn’s assertions.
“We do not believe that those classrooms are mold free and so we have asked for a second opinion on the classrooms to be done. All we are asking for is for these rooms to be tested and we will return to work,” she said.
“How much should we take as teachers? It is wrong for people to sit up here and say we just don’t want to teach and we aren’t following procedures or protocol when our health and safety are at risk.”
“If it is mold, get rid of it. If it is not, test it and tell us it’s not. We do not have a problem with going back to the classroom once its clean.”
Wells said while teachers have remained adamant in standing their ground on the issue, they have been heckled and verbally mistreated by school administrators.
“Our senior mistress has been laughing and threatening to cut us. This has to be a joke,” she asserted.
While teachers remained up in arms over the issue Thursday night, parents of students affected by the staff walk-out expressed their displeasure as well.
“Tomorrow he will meet with these people but that still does not mean that teachers are returning to the classroom tomorrow. So, I am not satisfied. My child is in the 8th grade and has been out of her classes for days now,” said Vanessa Dean, C.H. Reeves parent.
“I will be satisfied by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week when students are actually able to return to classes.”
Meantime, there were others who were pleased with the dialogue that transpired between teachers, school administration and minister Lloyd.
Lilian Smith said she is content with the minister’s resolve and looks forward to the situation being remedied in short order.
“He has the students and teachers at heart and so if there are any problems I feel confident that he will resolve them soon,” she said.
Lloyd gave further assurances that additional tests for mold will be carried out on Friday.
“AT 10:00 a.m. the director of labour [and Dr. Ward] will be here on this campus to continue the necessary assessment so we can take care of the business that needs to be handled for our teachers and our students. This is absolutely critical to us,” he said
“Dr. Ward is going to assist the department of labour in providing a second, and a third [opinion] if necessary, to satisfy our teachers.
“I need you to understand parents that my ministry will do everything within its power to ensure that this interruption in these children vital instruction comes to an immediate end.”