Ministry turns to CARPHA Acting Minister of Education Hon. Marcella Liburd told parents of Basseterre High School students that CARIRI will not be doing any follow-up tests at the institution. This was revealed during a meeting between Education officials, teachers and parents yesterday (Apr 30). The meeting was held at the Washington Archibald High School, where the BHS students are scheduled to begin a classroom shift system next Tuesday (May 6). Minister Liburd said that upon completing a pre-assignment visit last week, CARIRI had recommended the government enlist the services of t he Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC), whose functions have been merged in the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Liburd told the anxious parents she had been engaged in phone conversations with CAREC throughout the course of Wednesday. “I just came off the phone with one of the people at CAREC- that is the organization that we are contacting to see if we can get some urgent testing on the Basseterre High School on the recommendation of CARIRI, so that we can bring dome finality to this issue,’she said. She was unable to specify a timeframe for the agency’s arrival but said she had related to them that the Ministry wished to have the testing done “as urgently as possible”. Liburd said after two inspections by CARIRI they have not been able to pinpoint the cause of the problem. The health concerns at the Basseterre High first came to the public’s attention in November 2012 when the teachers staged a sit-in. Teachers and students had been reporting several illnesses including skin rashes, headaches and respiratory afflictions. According to the principal Carlene Morton, they had been dealing with the situation diplomatically for over a year at that point. The staff went on strike after those efforts failed to prompt reasonable action by the Ministry of Education. CARIRI was called in November 2012 to conduct tests on the western campus where the problems appeared to originate. After discovering high levels and mold and bacteria, CARIRI made several recommendations to the Ministry to rectify the problems identified. In February the Ministry began extensive renovations on the western campus labs. Corroded, exposed sewer drains with human waste were discovered behind lab walls and other areas. These were replaced and the campus reoccupied in September. Within weeks students and teachers began complaining of similar symptoms as well as hair falling out and neurological illnesses. CARIRI returned April 22 and interviewed the students and teachers based on submitted medical reports. There has been no official word from either the Ministry of Education or Health on what those interviews revealed.