Good Morning Mr. Speaker,
Prior to the start of the school year, my colleague, the Minister of Education, the Hon Diallo Rabain made a very difficult decision to keep T.N. Tatem Middle School closed for this current school year. This decision was based on the findings contained in the Facilities Inspection Report, prepared by the Government’s Safety and Health Coordinator. That report not only documented several health & safety issues including mold - but it also highlighted that negligent human behavior was a contributing factor.
Mr. Speaker, with that decision it became clear to both the Ministry of Public Works Building Section and the Ministry of Education Facilities Department that the buildings could not simply remain shuttered for an entire school year. Everyone knows what happens when any building in our sub-tropical climate is closed – it’s the perfect environment for mold and mildew - (Bermuda’s National Flower) - to flourish. The team discussed options to ensure that did not happen.
The first thing would be for the T. N. Tatem staff to remove all school supplies and personal effects from the buildings – so that a thorough cleaning of the facility could occur and any unwanted supplies and equipment could be disposed of. The request was for that to occur by 31 October 2019 – so that crews can begin the full cleaning exercise.
Concurrent with those discussions, in August I conducted a tour of the facility to ascertain what steps should be taken to ensure the integrity, security and ongoing cleanliness of the buildings. Those discussions included how we could temporarily repurpose some of the buildings so that there remained a physical presence on-site to discourage vandalism, damage or even unauthorized occupancy of the building. All of which have occurred over this period.
Mr. Speaker, several of the classrooms – particularly those in the family services block – a single-story structure at the eastern end of the property -were suitable for various community activities that would provide that physical presence we sought. Included in that area was a weight training room, carpentry and woodwork shops, family studies and counselling rooms along with toilet facilities. All of these areas tested clean of any mold or air quality issues.
Mr. Speaker, Pembroke Hamilton Club (PHC) (let me declare my interest as a member of PHC) have had a long-standing lease arrangement with the Ministry of Public Works for the use of the playing field for both training and their multitude of community football programmes – so it was a natural fit to approach them first to see if there could be some temporary expanded use of the school facilities, that could assist their programmes.
Needless to say, they were very receptive of the offer and we are advancing those discussions but in the interim, we have immediately extended the use of the toilet facilities for Saturday mornings when they have dozens of young people participating in their various programmes.
Mr. Speaker, we then set about looking at community-minded activities that would assist particularly young people in the Warwick area (and again let me declare my interest – T. N. Tatem sits on the boundary of my district and is in MP Lister’s district).
Mr. Speaker, other activities we are exploring are the use of the weight training room to include a boxing ring, the carpentry shop to be run by qualified carpenters as an afterschool programme, the family center to be converted into a community kitchen that will provide teaching opportunities for those who wish to learn how to cook and bake as well as kitchen space for those budding entrepreneurs who can no longer produce baked or cooked goods for sale at home as they do not meet stringent health department conditions. Interest has also been expressed in utilization of the gymnasium for a fitness programme and use of the auditorium for church services. Those discussions are ongoing.
All of these activities will be under licence for a period that ends on July 31st, 2020 – by which time the Ministry of Education will have made a decision on their future needs for the T. N. Tatem campus.
Mr. Speaker, you will know that every building needs to breathe in order not to deteriorate – we believe these efforts will ensure that the T. N. Tatem campus will require minor repairs next year to be able to cater to students once again – should that be the Ministry of Education’s decision.
In a practical sense, this temporary use of T. N. Tatem will provide tangible assistance to a wide cross-section of our community and protect the integrity of this asset.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.