October 9, 20131221Views

Ten schools in the British Virgin Islands have
received Safe School certification from the Department of Disaster Management

The certification was awarded following an assessment
of the schools conducted by the DDM in accordance with the School Health and Safety
Policy developed in 2011, in conjunction with the Ministry and Department of
Education and Culture.

The School Health and Safety Policy establishes minimum
standards that are identified through an assessment checklist and includes things
such as location, design, construction, health and safety operations, retrofitting,
environment, play grounds, evacuation and disaster planning procedures.

DDM’s Planning and Preparedness Manager, Ms. Sheniah
Armstrong explained that to be certified as a Safe School, schools had to score
a minimum of 80 percent on the assessment checklist.

“In conducting the assessments of this first group of
10 schools, we found that each had emergency contingency plans which are
exercised annually, as well as trained safety officers and first aiders in
place. There was sound evidence that health and safety as well as disaster
preparedness activities were being incorporated in the operations of each
school and of these activities being closely monitored and evaluated. We are
proud of their achievement and from the various reactions to the presentation,
they were delighted as well. ”

Over the past few days, Ms. Armstrong has been
visiting the certified schools to present the Safe School seal of certification
which is to be affixed to the school building, as well as the actual Safe
School Certificate, which is valid for three years.

Ms. Armstrong has also been encouraging the principals
to move on to the next phase of certification which will see the school
receiving SMART School designation for combining their health and safety
requirements with climate change adaptation initiatives or ‘green’ practices.

“The DDM is keen to see the schools achieve the next
level of certification and some of them, have already embarked on or are
considering green measures. We have provided each with a guidance tool which
outlines the requirements for incorporating green measures aimed at obtaining
the SMART School designation and the Department is certainly eager to see them
move purposefully in that direction,” she stated.

DDM Director, Ms. Sharleen Da Breo is also high in
praise for the newly certified schools and she expressed the hope that this
would serve as impetus for other schools in the BVI to pursue similar

“Schools are regarded as critical facilities,” she
said, adding that, “this designation brings with it immense responsibilities as
it relates to the structural and non-structural components of the institutions
and the need for them to keep children, teachers and administrators safe and
healthy. We have 63 registered schools in the BVI and it is my fervent hope
that the others move swiftly to attain Safe School certification.”

The DDM is already working with another group of 10
schools and Ms. Da Breo is optimistic that they will institute the necessary
measures that would enable them to qualify as a Safe School. She is also keen
to see greater attention paid to the greening of schools.

“Climate change is a very real concept and we all have
a responsibility to adopt practices that will help to slow this inevitable
process. As public buildings, schools tend to have a sizeable carbon footprint,
given the amount of energy used. One of the easiest ways to green your school
would be to reduce energy consumption and one of the easiest ways to change
behavioural practices within communities is to begin to instill that change
within our young children,” the DDM Director stated.

The 10 schools receiving the Safe School designation are
the New Testament Church of God Wendell Potter Learning Centre; New Life Day
Care and Learning Centre; First Impressions Early Childhood and Primary School;
St. Mary’s Early Childhood and Primary School; Althea Scatliffe Primary School;
Isabella Morris Primary School; Leonora Delville Primary School; Cedar
International School; BVI Seventh Day Adventist Primary and Secondary School
and the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College.

Photo Caption: DDM’s Planning and Preparedness Manager, Ms. Sheniah Armstrong presenting Safe School certification to nine of the 10 qualifying schools.