Basseterre High School Saga Continues

Basseterre, St. Kitts (SKN SOURCE) — In this editorial, we’ll present interesting information on the state-owned Basseterre High School, which was shut down in 2014 after teachers and students complained about its harmful atmosphere. 

Nearly ten years have passed, two administrations have taken office, local news organizations in St. Kitts and Nevis have published multiple investigative stories, and teachers, students, parents, and members of the community have all raised concerns. However, the original Basseterre High School is still closed.

Have we failed the eleven to sixteen-year-olds who live in Basseterre’s metropolitan area? Have they been deprived of the chance to pursue a high-quality education in a supportive setting? Have the former and current administrations mislead our community? The Basseterre High School: political football or not? As you read this editorial, make your choice. 

In 2014, Basseterre High School was closed and left unoccupied. At the time of its closure, it had two campuses, 12 different classroom buildings, over 800 students enrolled, and over 80 staff members working there. Old Girls School, Old Boys School, and Warner Park Cricket Stadium were all used as temporary locations for the school before operating on a shift basis at Washington Archibald High School in later years.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health evaluated the Indoor Environmental Quality at Basseterre High School in 2014, assessing mold, moisture, water damage, temperature, humidity, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulphide, and total volatile organic compounds. They also conducted lead paint testing, airflow in the chemical fume hood, pest control assessment, and examined improvements made in 2012.

A report from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health said “We evaluated indoor environmental quality concerns at the Basseterre High School. We saw no widespread mold, but we did observe water damage likely from leaking roofs and pipes in some buildings. We found low levels of hydrogen sulfide in Science labs that seemed to be from dry drain traps. Relative Humidity levels in the naturally ventilated school classrooms were above recommended guidelines. We recommended that a comprehensive ventilation assessment be conducted and all roof and pipe leaks be fixed.”

The former Team Unity Government’s choice to construct the school on the Basseterre Valley Aquifer also sparked additional debate. Critics argued that the construction of the new school would contaminate the aquifer, but the prior government said that reports from water engineers and other technical experts who completed feasibility studies found that the aquifer posed no risk of contamination.

Critics continued to oppose the construction of the new Basseterre High School on the Aquifer despite the assurances of specialists. To counter this, the Team Unity Government cleared the area, held a groundbreaking ceremony, and constructed a billboard at the site with a 3D model of the projected Basseterre High School before the August 05 elections.

“Persons who have been trying to muddy the water have been spreading a lot of misinformation as it relates to the Basseterre Aquifer and the construction of the new Basseterre High School…and so again, I dispel the misinformation that detractors have been very irresponsibly putting out there,” said the Education Minister in an interview with WINN FM on Wednesday, February 09, 2022.  

He added: “The concerns that were being raised were more in relation to the water table which is located at the Royal Basseterre National Valley which is that area to the east of the Kim Collins Highway where we are not building the Basseterre High School. We are building it further west, closer to town, where it does not in any way affect the water table and our water supply in Basseterre,” Powell continued.

Following the elections in August 2022, the St. Kitts Nevis Labour Party took office, and Education Minister Hon. Dr. Geoffrey Hanley declared that the new school will not be constructed on the aquifer but rather at the original location. 

According to the Prime Minister, Hon. Dr. Terrance Drew, a consultancy firm hired by the previous administration has received payments totaling about $14 million, but no new school has been built as a result. 

You have learned that the baffling delays in building a new Basseterre High School have been justified by both governments. But will the pupils accept those justifications? What about the staff and teachers? What about the taxpayers who paid the alleged $14 million in expenses? 

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