DOE delays school opening due to sanitation problems
The Department of Health inspection of the public and private schools on sanitation issues in the cafeterias, restrooms and classrooms has led to a decision by the Department of Education to delay the start of the new school year, which was slated for this coming Monday August 12, 2013.
Instead, school opening will be postponed one week and school will officially begin on Monday, August 19.
This was announced by DOE Director, Vaitinasa Dr Salu Hunkin-Finau who noted that out of the 46 private and public schools, ten public and two private schools have been cited for sanitation problems. Dr. Hunkin-Finau stated that “They (DOH) looked at the cafeterias, bathrooms and total grounds including the classrooms; it’s not just bathrooms and cafeterias, which are in a much more critical condition, and these issues need to be addressed right this moment.”
The schools that were cited and recommended by DOH to close down included two high schools—Fagaitua High School and Nu’uuli Vocational Technical High School; while Elementary Schools consisted of Afonotele, Aua, Coleman (Pago Pago), Le’atele (Fagasa), Matafao ECE Program, Pava’ia’i, Siliaga (Aoloau) and Tautalatasi Tuato’o Alofau. Two private schools are on the list: Marist St Francis Elementary and Ta’iala Academy.
The issues they found with the schools included kitchens not being clean, with rodent & insect infestation in food storage areas and also where the food is being prepared.
“By law DOH has the responsibility to ensure the sanitary conditions of any public area and specifically public schools. Based on their reports, these ten schools did not meet the DOH standards and they have issued the immediate closure of these schools," said the Director.
“In light of the governor’s adopt-a-school initiative and the wonderful agencies and departments working late at night and with the DOH—we have made a decision. We will delay the opening of schools for a week and students will not report to school, but DOE staff will report to their schools beginning Monday August 12, 2013."
There will be no school from August 12 to August 16, 2013 however students will return on August 19, 2013. The DOE Director is appealing to members of the public, village councils, businesses, associations, churches and organizations to lend a helping and help with the cleaning and renovation of the classrooms of each school nearby.
“This effort should not fall only on the government, rather it should be a community project given that these are our children using these facilities,” said Vaitinasa.
The DOE Director noted that while she “totally” appreciates the DOH’s move, this should have been done years ago. “It's obvious DOH have not being doing their duty and now they have decided to do it just in time for school to start. Had they done it earlier during the summer that would have given us enough time to fix the problems— but nonetheless I’m grateful for their work.”
According to the DOH report which was provided to Samoa News by DOE, after the DOH inspections, recommendations were made for the DOE to work closely with DPW, ASPA, DPS and EPA. It notes that the DOE school lunch program needs to cooperate with DOH.
“DOE Sanitation team needs to work together to conduct regular facility visits and implement action plans, and recommend an immediate government task force of multi-disciplinary individuals, departments and agencies and private entities to deal with immediate citations."
The DOH report had photos of rodents and insects found in the storage food areas. According to the report the Fire Department also needs to be more involved in training school staff. EPA and ASPA need to monitor water, sewage and disposal on school premises. There should also be a "long term outlook on building permit regulations and include Public Health input for sanitation standards.
“Every school must have a security, fence or retaining wall. Fumigation must occur annually and all cooking areas should be equipped with exhaust vents."
All school lunch workers should possess a valid health card and proper attire and every kitchen must have an inspection checklist. All unserviceable equipment should be inventoried and removed from the campus, says the report.