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Teachers, pupils staying away from ‘Rio’ school

Children breaking out in rashes

By Susan Mohammed susan.mohammed@trinidadexpress.com

THE mystery affliction which has been plaguing the Rio Claro West Secondary School for the past six weeks continues to affect the attendance of teachers and pupils.
Only 28 of a staff of 43 teachers turned up on Monday, and seven of those signed the register and left the school’s compound, said the Ministry of Education’s corporate communications officer Visham Ramsaywack.
Ramsaywack said he was advised by the School Supervision Department that the pupil population was at a minimum, as the school was operating on an examination rotation schedule.
Parents have said they believe an infestation of fleas caused by numerous stray dogs on the school’s compound has led to children breaking out in rashes, and in some cases, caused breathing problems.
However, the Ministry of Health and Vector Control Division had ruled out an infestation of fleas at the school. 
Ramsaywack said on Monday the Chief Medical Officer and the Insect and Vector Control Division had not deemed the school unfit for habitation to result in its closure.
He said up until yesterday the matter was being addressed with officials from the Ministry of Agriculture visiting the school.
“They have raised a new concern and said that there is a possibility that there may be bats residing in the roofs of the school’s buildings to cause the problem,” said Ramsaywack.
Regarding the possibility of the medical issues being caused from something from the trees as was suggested two weeks ago, he said the Education Ministry was awaiting a quote from Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) on the cost of air quality testing at the school.
“It has not yet been established what is causing the rashes, but it is a continuous concern which is resulting in the school population staying away,” said Ramsaywack.
He said the Insect and Vector Control Division had since sprayed and sanitised the compound, and regular cleaning and dusting was done by MTS (National Maintenance, Training and Security Company Ltd).
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