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Tuesday 21 January 2020
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Mystery insects shut down Montrose Vedic school

MYSTERIOUS biting insects have caused a walkout by teachers and the shutdown of the Montrose Vedic School, in the second week of the school term.

Teachers and children alike have been taken to private and public health facilities for treatment of allergic reactions that have left red blotches and bumps on their faces, arms and legs.

President of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) Larry Dilchan said this is an issue the school has been contending with since 2015, and suggestions for temporary relocation, a new school building or even a pre-fab building have not received positive responses.

Over the years, Dilchan said, on the advice of the Ministry of Education, air-quality testing was done by CARIRI, the Occupational Safety and Health Authority visited and did its own investigations, insect vectors from the Chaguanas Borough Corporation have sprayed the school, baiting has been done, the corporation has increased the cleaning of drains and areas around the school, but the problem was never identified. He said the PTA hired an environmental company to do an assessment, the results of which were inconclusive.

“The problem is that none of these agencies have been able to identify what is causing the biting and itching, and that is what concerns everybody. We cannot curb it.” Citing health and safety conditions, teachers walked out on Tuesday. Parents have kept their children at home after several of them were bitten and two students were taken to the health facility with severe allergic reactions. “We have the medical report to that effect,” Dilchan said. Representatives from the school board, ministry, insect vector unit, corporation and other agencies have visited the school to effect some temporary relief measures, he said. Parents are also helping to sanitise the premises so the school could be reopened today.

Dilchan explained that because the insects, possibly microscopic mites, flare up with the heat, the PTA has suggested air-conditioning as one measure to assist.

“The board is trying to press the ministry to do an electrical upgrade, so air-condition units can be installed. The PTA has told the ministry we will assist in getting the school air-conditioned once the electrical upgrade is done. It is a very uncomfortable situation, not at all conducive to teaching or learning.” In addition, he said, “The school is located in a very built-up area. We are in a little bit of a hole. All around it is blocked by other buildings, so we have a problem with ventilation.”

He said it is also affected by exhaust fumes, drains which are not good because of the flat landscape, and close proximity to the market and food outlets that could add to the effluent going into the drains.

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