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A group of approximately 17 teachers and school administrators recently completed a SMART Schools Inspectors’ Training.
The training, which was offered over a three day period, exposed teachers and administrators to the various components in the SMART Schools Toolkit and familiarised them with the requirements educational institutions need to have in place to meet the SAFE and SMART Schools standards. These standards were established by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Department of Disaster Management.
In explaining the tools Dr. Evangeline Inniss-Springer said, ‘The toolkit is designed in a manner that allows schools to incrementally achieve the standards. The first step in the process is to obtain the SAFE Schools certification which means that the schools are adhering to the health and safety policy and the schools’ physical plant is in good condition. If schools are able to achieve 80% in applying these safety standards, the institutions are designated as SAFE Schools.”
Dr. Inniss-Springer went on to explain how the SMART School certification is achieved, stating, “The second step involves using the Green checklist to assess water and energy consumption and identify the actions the school’s population is using to reduce its carbon footprint. The Green Checklist also looks at how chemicals and cleaning supplies are used and examines indoor air quality, lighting and recycling or reuse practices. Schools that achieve 80% on the Green building condition as well as the health and safety checklists will be certified as SMART Schools. Both the SAFE and SMART Schools are valid for a period of three years.”
The training offered this week is part of a wider consultancy that revised the toolkit to ensure that the lessons learned from 2017 were incorporated. The toolkit is currently being reformatted and updated to include new approaches and new standards.
Dr. Inniss-Springer noted that the SAFE and SMART School programme was adapted from the PAHO SMART Hospitals Initiative and the tools were developed using all local expertise.
She said, “We are proud to have local involvement in the development of these tools. We were able to take concepts developed for the health sector and show how they can be adapted and applied to another sector. The initial School’s Health and Safety was developed by the local company Sage Consulting and this revision was undertaken by Trojan Design and Development Ltd., a local architectural and construction firm, which facilitated the development of a similar regional toolkit for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency. The toolkit is owned by the Government of the Virgin Islands and the persons trained this week will build local capacity to not only apply the various checklists, but also serve as advocates for the resilient education.”
Mrs. Cherilyn Sanderson, Principal of the St. George’s Primary school, completed the training and found it to be extremely beneficial.
She said, “This workshop was an absolute eye opener. At schools we do the basic things to ensure the safety of our students but the information delivered here has shown me that there are still many things that we either overlook or don’t consider. I was ready and willing to offer my school to come under the microscope to be assessed using the SAFE school instrument. This initial process will highlight our strengths as well as deficiencies as it relates to safety. With information like that, we can now endeavor as a school family to remedy any limitations that may exist.”
The Department of Disaster Management has been working with the Ministry of Education as far back as 1998 on SAFE and SMART initiatives for schools. The programme has evolved to the stage where it is now rivaling the United National World Initiative for Safe Schools (WISS) as it incorporates green and healthy elements to allow for a comprehensive approach to the integration of disaster risk management within the education sector.
The workshop and the revision to the toolkit are components of the Establishing Flood Resilient SMART Communities through Non-Governmental Partnerships Project funded by the Caribbean Development Bank's Community Disaster Risk Reduction Fund which is being implemented in East End/Long Look, Sea Cow’s Bay and Jost Van Dyke. The new toolkit is expected to be completed by year’s end and will be available for full application through a paper form and an electronic online application.