Oranje School on Front Street.
~ Urgent measures for repairs and relocation to be implemented ~
FRONTSTREET--In an effort to prioritise the safety and well-being of pupils and faculty, Oranje School will undergo a one-day closure on Wednesday, November 1. The closure is necessary to carry out essential roof repairs, air-conditioning upgrades, and general maintenance.
The Minister of Justice made the announcement in a press release on Tuesday evening, highlighting the urgent need for electrical rewiring and repairs in some of the school’s classrooms. These issues have caused discomfort and health concerns among both teachers and pupils.
Responding to the teachers’ concerns, Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) emphasised the importance of upholding the humanitarian rights of all individuals involved. As a result, the teachers engaged in a two-day sit-out from classrooms starting on Monday, October 30.
Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport (ECYS) Rodolphe Samuel held a meeting with the teachers and school management on Monday to address the unfortunate situation. Concerned about pupils being left outside on benches, Samuel also reached out to utility company N.V. GEBE and the Ministry of Public Housing, Environment, Spatial Planning, and Infrastructure VROMI department for an electrical assessment, according to the release. Due to a scheduled travel engagement, the minister had to depart later.
“During the meeting with the Minister of ECYS, the WITU insisted that the necessary VSA [Public Health – Ed.] health inspections take place which would add to the overall assessments required for taking the remedying concerns for the school,” said WITU President Stuart Johnson.
Amidst the ongoing industrial action by Oranje School teachers, Acting Minister of Education Anna Richardson and Acting VROMI Minister Ardwell Irion interrupted their Council of Ministers (COM) meeting on Tuesday. They convened with the WITU union and school management on the school grounds to strategise a solution that would enable everyone to return to class.
Johnson and union members voiced their concerns and requested government assistance. Consequently, an agreement will be signed to outline the project’s timeline and funding for roofing, air-conditioning, and general maintenance.
The acting ministers requested that Johnson update the teachers on the proposed solutions. On returning to the meeting, Johnson announced that they were willing to accept the proposed solutions for all necessary repairs.
Later in the afternoon, as the Council of Ministers meeting reconvened, an official letter was issued by the Minister of Education to parents and teachers, stating that Oranje School would be closed on Wednesday, November 1, for structural reorganisation. This reorganisation aims to facilitate the relocation of classes in the school’s air-conditioned facilities. School will resume on Thursday, November 2.
“The Government of St. Maarten expresses gratitude to WITU President Stuart Johnson for his clear dialogue and support during negotiations with the faculty. Mr. Johnson’s efforts to communicate that the government is actively working towards resolving this issue are commendable. The Council of Ministers remains committed to maintaining open communication with WITU to ensure a satisfactory outcome as soon as possible,” the release concluded.