10 BVI schools receive safe school certification from DDM

Tortola, British Virgin Islands, 9 October, 2013 (DDM) - Ten schools in the British Virgin Islands have received Safe School certification from the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).

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

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 certification.

“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.