A mold and termite infestation has forced the closure of a section of the Corinth Secondary School, Principal Willard Andrew has said.
The infestation was found mainly on the external walls and parts of the ceilings of a few classrooms. The affected area had housed the largest concentration of students at the school.
Andrew explained in an interview with Saint Lucia News Online (SNO) that the closure became necessary when teachers and students began complaining of itchiness, bumps and boils on their skin some time ago.
This resulted in the establishment of a new shift system which took effect today, May 26, 2014. Under this new arrangement, students in Forms 1-3 will attend school from 7:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the third and fourth forms will report at 12:45 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Luckily, Andrew said that fifth form students who are now sitting CXC examinations have not been affected by the change.
The shift will continue until July 2015 when it is expected that two new two-storey classroom blocks will be fully constructed. That initiative falls under the Basic Education Enhancement Project (BEEP), and was already on the cards to begin in July this year. The now vacated wing allows for a quicker completion of that project since construction was supposed to have been done while students were still housed in that location.
The school’s second and third forms and a fourth form, along with various specialized rooms for subjects such as technical drawing, music and theatre, were housed in that section.
That area was closed off last Thursday but an initial shut down phase took place at the entire school from May 8-9 for fumigation and power washing exercises. School had resumed on May 12 but after several more complaints, it was decided by the Ministry of Education and other experts in the field, that the building should be condemned.
The principal moreover, expressed concern that though the building was washed and treated, there could still be fragments of the mold in the area.
He said a meeting with the Ministry of Education is scheduled for Thursday where these matters will addressed and a way forward will be discussed.
Andrew believes that the 27 –year-old school building is overdue for renovation. He commented that while the ministry has reacted with urgency about the current matter, the school has over the past few decades been somewhat neglected by governments. He said that every year over $12,000 to $15,000 is expended on repair works at the institution but that is hardly noticed due to the size of the school.
School officials met with parents on Friday regarding the matter. Andrew believes parents have responded well to the closure and have expressed confidence in the school.
He further commented that there are both positive and negative aspects involved. An advantage of the new shift system, according to him, is that students are able to spend more time at home in the day, which can be used to study, do assignments and other studious activities. A drawback, however, is that the amount of time in the classroom has been reduced slightly.
Forty-minute periods have been changed to 35 minutes, while an eight-period day is now seven. He said a normal school day ran for six-and-a-half hours but is now reduced to about four hours.
Andrew is still confident that students will recover if they do what is asked of them.
Two tents, provided by the Ministry of Education, have been erected on the school premises for classes such as technical drawing and music.
The Corinth Secondary School currently has a population of 670. Approximately 120 students were directly affected by the closure, with hundreds more indirectly.
Meanwhile, a few past students at the institution are now planning a barbecue for June 7 at 4 p.m. to raise funds to build two gazebos which will be used as outdoor classrooms instead of the tents. The public is asked to patronise the event.