Bahamas Minister of Education Updates on School Openings After Hurricane Matthew

SALUTATIONS: Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of
Education, Science and Technology, Mrs. DonellaBodie;
Director of Education, Mr. Lionel K. Sands; Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education with responsibility for Physical Planning, Mr. Coleman Andrews; District Superintendents and other senior education officials; Members of the Press,  Good morning.

On Sunday, October 9, 2016, at a press conference held at NEMA, I informed the public that schools throughout our islands would resume normal operation today, with the exception of schools in North Andros, New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Berry Islands. During that time, I also indicated to the Bahamian people that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology would provide more details pertaining to the reopening of schools on those islands. Today, we are here to give an update so that parents can plan for the week ahead as it relates to their school-aged children.

Throughout the weekend, teams from the Physical Plant Unit of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology conducted detailed assessments of schools throughout New Providence, Grand Bahama and North Andros with thorough valuations of all classrooms, offices and the exterior premises. The majority of our schools held up well; unfortunately, some of our schools have suffered extensive damages.  Realistically, the clean-up efforts will require days to complete. We will therefore use the remainder of this week to aggressively address the clean-up
and restoration efforts of all New Providence, Grand Bahama and North Andros schools, along with the school at Lowe Sound. This is a mammoth task but our number one priority. Additionally, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has cut the power supply to all of our schools so that electrical assessments can be conducted. We will be in communication with Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) to let them know when power can be restored to schools based on
the outcome of the assessments.

We wish to inform the public that four schools sustained severe damages. The extent of the damages at these schools will require medium to long term address and we are now in the process of making alternate arrangements for the administrators, staff and students of those schools to identify a suitable place to accommodate them in the interim. These schools are:

  • C.I. Gibson Senior High in New Providence,
  • Bartlett Hill and Lewis Yard Primary schools in Grand Bahama and
  • Lowe Sound Primary in Andros.

Furthermore, prior to schools being given the green light to open, we will have to engage other agencies to ensure that schools are safe for students. These include, but are not limited to, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environmental Health, and Ministry of Works. The health and safety of our learning environments are of utmost importance at this time.

We will be mobilizing contracts as soon as possible. The companies that we will engage for school repairs will be issued a letter with an official stamp by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to be presented to building suppliers.

We are making a special appeal to building suppliers to give preference to those in possession of one of these letters and that companies work with them to minimize long waits so that works can commence as quickly as possible. We also ask the
general public to exercise patience and to be understanding of this process.

As a result of the passage of Hurricane Matthew, schools have been closed for approximately one week. Students have missed valuable instructional time and as such we must ensure that those days are made up. We have communicated with the President and Acting President of the Bahamas Education Managerial Union (BEMU) and The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) respectively and a decision has been made to forgo this month’s mid-term break and professional development days in the best interest of our students. I wish to repeat that there will be not
mid-term break as was scheduled for the end of October.

As is relates to our staff, all custodial staff are to report to work immediately to help with the necessary clean-ups. Additionally, all teachers are to report to their respective schools on Thursday, October 13th, 2016 at the regular time.  Also, two of our satellite offices are still without power and will remain closed until the power to those buildings has been restored. They are:

Examination and Assessments on the Tonique Williams-Darling Highway and Scholarships on Shirley Street. The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology will provide an additional update for the schools of New Providence, Grand Bahama,
North Andros, Lowe Sound and The Berry Islands on Friday, October 14th, 2016.

Thank you and God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

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