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Video: Education Minister Press Conference - Bernews

[Updated] Minister of Education Diallo Rabain is holding a press conference this afternoon [Aug 30], and we will have additional coverage later on and in the meantime the live video is below.

Update: The live broadcast has concluded and the 10-minute replay is below

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Update 3.49pm: The Minister spoke on a number of matters, including explaining that the Ministry of Education will issue a Request for Proposal [RFP], “seeking proposals from local and overseas organizations to plan, manage and execute the school redesign process.”

Minister Rabain said, “Today, I want to take some time to provide the public with important information regarding Bermuda public schools. Over the past two weeks, there have been concerns about the state of our school facilities; the health and safety of our students and staff; and questions about what we as a Ministry and Department are doing to address these issues.

“It is important to me, that I take this opportunity to outline the steps we are taking to not only ensure that our schools are safe, but to reassure parents, students, staff, and the public that we are doing what is necessary to map out a successful path for public education in Bermuda.

“I want to start with the most recent opportunity for immediate action within the Department and Ministry – Clearwater Middle School, asbestos abatement, and the state of our school facilities. Teachers will return to school next week on September 3rd, and students on September 10th. With this in mind, it is vital to us that we provide an update.

“Last week, I provided an update to the public in regards to the work that was being carried out at Clearwater Middle School, to remove and abate asbestos that was found at the facility. This update came after a video of the abatement works being done within the school was made public.

“AC Management and Bermuda Water Consultants were called to conduct abatement works and collect air samples in various parts of the school. After these works were carried out, samples were sent to an overseas lab for further testing. Once the overseas lab determined that the samples submitted were free of asbestos, the results were submitted to the Department of Health who issued a health certificate of completion – the final step in any asbestos abatement process in Bermuda.

“Further abatement work was needed because the original abatement work that was carried out damaged some floor tiles. That work is currently underway.

“Currently Mr. Titus Gordon, Government Health and Safety Officer is producing an FAQ fact sheet about asbestos that will be handed out to all relevant stakeholders prior to the opening of school.

“Under any other circumstance, finding asbestos at any school is an issue that would be quickly addressed and dealt with, by the Ministry of Public Works and third-party licensed contractors. However, in keeping with my promise be transparent and open with my communication with relevant stakeholders, I deemed it critical to provide this update.

“Moving forward, the Department pledges to work with key stakeholders from each school, including parents, students and staff, to address questions and concerns; to provide an outline of the schedule of work being done; and to provide further information on an individual, school basis. Our approach is simple. We will focus our efforts where they are needed and communicate with those that are affected as soon as practicable.

“This morning, the Ministry and Department received a report on the readiness of schools, and I am pleased to report that the majority of Bermuda public schools will be ready to receive teachers and staff on September 3rd, and students on September 10th. We are awaiting updates on the readiness of the remaining schools later today.

“I will now move on to providing an update on this Government’s plans to reform our education system and to phase out Middle Schools.

“Over many years, and presently, there has been a lot of discussion and concern about the state of our facilities; the quality of public education; and the decline in enrolment.

“These realities have been some of the key indicators in reaffirming the importance of this Government executing our promise to restructure our school system, including phasing out middle schools and introducing signature schools.

“The restructuring of the Bermuda Public School System; phasing out middle schools; and introducing signature schools remains consistent with Plan 2022 – a plan that was compiled directly from public feedback and which determines the direction of public education in Bermuda.

“The discussion around phasing out middle schools has already commenced. We know that this work requires thought, research, ongoing engagement with stakeholders; and sensitivity to the needs of our children and families. We also need to respect our internal stakeholders whose experience and expertise is critical and which will guide the way forward.

“That is why this morning before holding this conference, we notified all of our key stakeholders – including parents, teachers, Department of Education staff, the Board of Education and the BPSU, BIU and the BUT – of our plans and intentions.

“We have referenced past reports on Public Education in Bermuda, carried out reviews of past processes, including how the community was involved in the development of Plan 2022; and the engagement of staff and parents and other Government Ministries for their knowledge and insight. Feedback has also been gathered directly from critical stakeholders and members of the public. This feedback is an essential piece of the puzzle towards the future development and delivery of the Government’s commitment to remake public education.

“To carry out this work in a way that is meaningful for our children means not only restructuring our school system with the phasing out of middle schools, but also redesigning or rebuilding existing schools and designing new signature schools.

“As we continue to take steps forward to transform the Bermuda Public School System, the Ministry of Education will issue a Request for Proposal [RFP], seeking proposals from local and overseas organizations to plan, manage and execute the school redesign process.

“Issuing an RFP will provide us with the benefit of using an effective, existing, structured school redesign process that can be tailored to the needs of the Bermuda Public School System. This will also allow the officers within the Department of Education to continue to focus on the day to day work of Public School Education.

“I encourage the public to review the RFP, which will be available online under the Office of Project Management and Procurement section of gov.bm. You will see our sincere intention to be collaborative by giving you the opportunity to help the Government and Department of Education to transform public education in Bermuda.

“I thank all of the critical players for their diligent contributions towards executing what I have outlined here today; however, much work remains ahead.

“I am encouraged by the path we are on to transform Bermuda schools and the Bermuda public education system. I invite all members of the public to participate in the transformational process when called upon and thank the public for their patience and commitment to our children and their future. Thank you.”

The full Asbestos information sheet follows below [PDF here]

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