Rats: St Andrew’s Anglican closed for rest of term

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

St Andrew’s Anglican School, Calder Hall. – Photo by David Reid

The St Andrew’s Anglican Primary School will remain closed for the rest of the term.

Speaking with Newsday on Monday, Assistant Secretary of Education, Research and Technology Orlando Kerr said the decision was taken recently when all stakeholders met.

The school was closed on February 17 owing to a rat infestation problem.

Kerr said: “St Andrew’s would not be opened until next term.

“We had a meeting, a consultation with the principal, the parents, the board – all stakeholders – because the problem is a kind of comprehensive problem that is not really in the school per say.”

Kerr said health officials have been engaged as the problem is a re-occurrence of a 2016 issue which was not dealt with comprehensively.

“They came up with a comprehensive plan between health and OSH and they are basically advising us on it.

“What has basically happened is that the Standard Five class will remain in the (John Dial) multi-purpose facility, they’ll be doing their (SEA) exams there. The rest of the school will remain online and they are treating with the problem because the problem is multi-faceted and it has to be treated with in a manner. So it was agreed that rather than rushing the process, that we take our time and do it comprehensively.”

He said it was also agreed that health officials should visit other schools to help identify issues that may need to be addressed.

“It is something that we are treating with – we’re taking it very seriously. What they told us and from this experience, what we realised is that it is not easily identifiable when you have rodents in the schools; they tend to stay hidden during the day and come out at nights, and if you’re not trained you won’t be able to tell that the school has rodents. Coming out of this, we want to change the way we treat with that.”

Questioned specifically about the neighbouring Scarborough Methodist School, he said: “Coincidentally, based on what the experts are telling us, the Methodist school does not have that problem.”

He said the conditions at St Andrew’s Anglican were “really suitable for those rodents to thrive.”

Last month Kerr said the problem was bigger than the school and stemmed from the community. “So what we thought initially was just a school problem, and that we could have just killed the rats in the school – remove the carcasses and sanitise – we realised that it was much more than that.”

TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) Tobago officer Bradon Roberts said he was unaware of the new extended closure, he said: “I didn’t see that school opening any time now. They had a meeting and they said they would have invited me, I don’t know what happened but I was not there, they never invited me to any meeting.

“Based on the work that I know would have to be done there, I didn’t foresee the reopening before the end of the term.”

Roberts previously told Newsday that he supported the closure. He said the rat infestation was detected by the staff. He said it was only when staff had threatened to stay away from school that the issues were addressed.

He said the teachers taking a stand was the right decision as if they had stayed on the compound both students and staff would have been getting sick without knowing why.

Contacted for an update, Secretary of Health, Wellness and Social Protection Dr Faith BYisrael said: “The Public Health department was providing guidance in terms of eradicating the problem and the necessary sanitation following. That process was scheduled to take a couple weeks, as far as I’m aware, it is proceeding as planned.”