~Acting Ministers collaborate to strategize efforts on a proposal for repairs.~
PHILIPSBURG:--- Oranje School, a monumental public school of the primary division, will encounter a one-day closure on Wednesday, November 1, 2023. This urgent closure is due to essential roof repairs, air-conditioning, and general maintenance to ensure the safety and well-being of both students and faculty.
Some of the school's classrooms are currently in dire need of electrical rewiring, and repairs which caused discomfort and health concerns for the primary school teachers and students. In response to the teachers' concerns, the Windward Islands Teachers Union (WITU) called for adherence to the humanitarian rights of both students and educators, and the teachers engaged in a two-day sit-out from the classrooms starting on Monday, October 30, 2023.
The Honorable Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Drs. Rodolphe E. Samuel, held a meeting with the teachers and school management on Monday to discuss the unfortunate matter. He expressed concern that students also remained outside the school on benches. The Minister of Education also engaged with utility company N.V. GEBE and the VROMI department to undergo an electrical assessment, although he had to later depart for a scheduled travel engagement.
During this period of industrial action by the Oranje School teachers, the Honorable Acting Minister of Education, Anna E. Richardson, and Acting Minister of VROMI, Ardwell Irion, left their scheduled Council of Ministers (COM) meeting on Tuesday, October 31, 2023, to urgently meet with the WITU union and school management. The primary objective of this urgent meeting was to strategize a solution that would accommodate those affected and have everyone return to class. The meeting was held on the school grounds at the school manager’s and counselor's offices. President of the WITU, Stuart Johnson, and his WITU members shared the concerns of the teachers and requested government assistance. It was decided that an agreement would be signed to reflect the project’s timeline and funding, whereby the roofing, air-conditioning, and all general maintenance would be executed.
The Ministers requested that President Johnson update the teachers on the proposed solutions by the Acting Ministers. He later returned to the meeting to announce that they were willing to accept the proposed solutions to handle all necessary repairs.
As the Council of Ministers meeting reconvened in the afternoon, an official letter was issued to parents and teachers by the Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, Drs. Rodolphe Samuel. The letter stated that it was decided that the Oranje School would be closed on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, for some structural reorganizing to accommodate the relocation of classes within the airconditioned facilities of the school campus. The letter also confirms that schools will resume on Thursday, November 2, 2023.
The Government of Sint Maarten would like to thank the President of WITU, Stuart Johnson for the clear dialogue and support during the negotiations with the faculty. Mr. Johnson’s input to further communicate that the Government is doing everything possible to have this issue resolved is commendable. The Council of Ministers intends to maintain open communication with WITU to ensure that there is a satisfactory outcome of this matter soonest.
Committed to the safety and welfare of its students and staff, the Government of St. Maarten will work diligently to ensure that the necessary repairs are completed to provide a conducive learning environment for all involved.