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Reminders for phased, physical re-opening of schools

The Education Ministry announced the phased physical reopening of schools February 8 for students of Forms Four to Six using a “hybrid system”. Classes resume April 12, Term Three for Standard Five children preparing for the Secondary Entrance Assessment exam.

The hybrid system will involve online classes and students reporting for school to complete practicals, SBAs (School Based Assessments) and internal assessments. “Physical teaching classes to be held only when absolutely necessary,” Minister of Education Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced at a media briefing at the Education Tower, Port of Spain on January 26.

She explained the phased re-opening became necessary because of the requirement for students to complete practicals, SBAs and internal assessments for the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC).
The Ministry has been in discussion with interest groups since last November about the process for reopening. For Standard Five students, Gadsby-Dolly said substitute teachers will be assigned to schools where required to assist with supervisory functions and monitoring students to ensure compliance with protocols.

Touching on general operations for all schools, she said entry protocols enforced must include: wearing of school uniforms, mask worn at all times except when eating and drinking, handwashing, temperature checks, collection of visitor data for contact tracing—schools asked to keep visitors to a minimum— and a designated quarantine area. Students with flu-like symptoms are to be sent to the quarantine area for pick up.

‘The Guidelines for Schools Term II Academic Year 2020-2021’ was issued to schools and contains safety protocols on: staff or student displaying flu-like symptoms, staff or student tests positive for COVID-19, staff or student identified as a primary contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19.

Medical clearance is required for staff or students to re-enter the school population after suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19. Medical clearance is also required if another medical condition is causing the display of flu-like symptoms.

Gadsby-Dolly announced the establishment of an Education District Health Unit comprising one doctor and 14 nurses. Each school district will be assigned two district nurses with direct responsibility to be liaison between the schools and “relevant units” of the health ministry. It will facilitate clearance for entry or re-entry of students to schools “where necessary”.

Schools have been asked to have messages throughout the day on maintaining safety protocols and the Ministry will have “an aggressive social media campaign” so the children understand the behaviour change that is necessary.

Giving feedback on the Guidelines, Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management, Chair of the Association of Denominational Boards of Education Sharon Mangroo said, “I was heartened to see that our recommendations have been taken on board. Off the top of my head the standing temperature scanner.”

She added that “more importantly” was the introduction of additional assistant teachers to supervise Standard 5 students.

The establishment of the MOE District Health Unit was “a plus”. The Association had pointed out that the one nurse per district originally proposed was inadequate, this was increased to two.
Another recommendation accepted was for the clearance for students displaying flu-like symptoms “to be given by the District Health Unit rather than the nurse”.

— By Lara Pickford Gordon