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Govt clarifies position after GSD urges rethink on St Martin’s school timings

The GSD has urged a rethink to ad hoc changes to St Martin’s timetable, after the Gibraltar Government told parents they may have to collect their children two hours earlier than normal on hot days.

Parents were told on Sunday that they would be advised between 11am and 12pm if temperatures were high and earlier collection was necessary.

The reason given is the high temperature in classes, which is exacerbated by the fact air conditioning cannot be used because of public health rules.

The GSD the news had caused understandable “consternation and stress” to parents who now had to make alternative arrangements at very short notice on a daily basis until the weather becomes cooler.

The party said the decision was upsetting for children who have very specific and special needs, and for whom any disruption to their routine presents not only a huge challenge to their parents but also to the children themselves.

“Expecting parents to be on tenterhooks every day between 11am and 12pm to see whether they receive the call to collect their child is as unacceptable as it is unworkable,” the party said in a statement.

The GSD also described as “inexplicable” the decision to alert parents at such short notice, adding it was “frankly inexcusable” given they added stress it had caused.

“It begs the question: why issue the notification now that we have been through two weeks of full days when temperatures have been high and at a time when we are poised to enter cooler weeks?” said Edwin Reyes, the GSD’s shadow spokesman for education.

“The party requests that the Government seek alternative and imaginative solutions.”

“We are not convinced that all possible solutions have been considered in which pupils can be kept under the care of the school thereby keeping to their much valued and important routine and not causing family disruption to parents and other carers.”

In response, the Gibraltar Government said it had contacted parents after a spate of hot weather, including the hottest days for many weeks.

Public Health advice during the Covid-19 pandemic has meant that air conditioners cannot be kept on while classes are occupied, and doors and windows have to be kept shut for safety reasons.

The government said a number of steps taken to date had worked and that it hoped to avoid any early finish.

These steps include leaving air conditioners on when children are not in class, including overnight; provision of more wall-mounted fans; regular wash-down of the rubber crumb surfaces in the play areas in order to cool them; and providing gates so that doors can remain open without danger to the children.

These steps were already planned, but the letter was issued in order to ensure openness and transparency with the parents, who are key stakeholders in the school.

It would have been far worse to have kept them in the dark, No.6 Convent Place said.

“The GSD may have preferred for the children to remain in class in those hot conditions, or for them to have been sent home without alerting the parents in advance,” said Dr John Cortes, the Minister of Education.

“Neither would have been acceptable, and so the school did what it had to do and kept the parents informed, while taking all possible action to avoid early closure.”

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