Back to School Amid COVID Concerns

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  1. Amid concerns about the reopening of schools today the Ministry of Education has moved ahead with that process after rigorous implementation of protocols and establishment of specific guidelines for both teachers and students. One week prior to the reopening teachers attended training and preparation at their various institutions to finalize procedures.
The re-opening is being guided by strict protocols. In classrooms, students will be seated three feet apart. They are to wear face masks and or face shields. Hand sanitizers will be placed at strategic locations, and there will be full-scale cleaning exercises at the end of every day, with intermittent sanitizing during the day. The re-opening is being jointly guided by Saint Lucia’s Education Sector Continuity Plan, the OECS Continuity of Learning Plan, and regulations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The St. Lucia Teacher’s Union released a letter expressing concerns over the weekend even in the wake of the statement from the Ministry of Education and detailed information on Wednesday January 6.

Ministry of Education release on Friday follows:

The Ministry of Education has detailed plans for the reopening of schools today. This was done on Friday January 8 extensive release to news media and on the government’s media platforms. This was also the main focus of early commencement o school for teachers.

Following an extensive consultation process, it was decided that schools will reopen for the second school term, allowing students physical access to the classroom. The re-opening is being guided by strict protocols.

This past week, teachers reported to work for school term planning, meetings with the Chief Medical Officer, and to receive psycho-social support facilitated through counsellors. Meanwhile, the Minister for Education, Hon. Dr. Gale Rigobert, addressed a meeting of stakeholders on Jan. 4 inclusive of district education officers, principals and heads of departments; followed by an Update to the Nation on Jan. 6.

“The meetings held over the past days have been very detailed, outlining specific protocols and more importantly, the Education Sector Continuity Plan in a COVID-19 environment,” Dr. Rigobert said.

The re-opening is being jointly guided by Saint Lucia’s Education Sector Continuity Plan, the OECS Continuity of Learning Plan, and regulations by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Chief Education Officer, Dr. Fiona Philip-Mayer informed that similar to the reopening of school last September, all small school populations will operate using the “whole school approach.”

“We have 34 schools that will still be under the alternate day approach because of the numbers that they have. But what we have endeavored to do is to ensure that these alternate day students get at least three days of face-to-face interaction complemented by online instruction,” Dr. Philip-Mayer said. “Important for the public to note is that wherever possible we have tried to ensure that all Kindergarten, Grade Six, and Form Five students return for as many face-to-face days as per the cycle. Many of those are secondary schools.”

In classrooms, students will be seated three feet apart. They are to wear face masks and or face shields. Chief Environmental Health Officer, Parker Ragnanan, said there will be mask-breaks as determined by teachers. He outlined the other safety measures.

“We encourage that hand sanitizers be placed at strategic locations throughout the schools so that maximum use can be gained from them. It is important that surfaces—the buildings, floors, desks and classrooms—be cleaned and sanitized on a daily basis. So there will be a full-scale cleaning exercise at the end of every day, with intermittent sanitizing during the day,” Mr. Ragnanan said. “We also encourage schools to develop a very clear cleaning schedule so that everyone is guided.”

Sporting activities at schools are limited to small-group physical engagements and non-contact sporting activities. Additionally, mass crowd gatherings at schools are not allowed.

When school resumes, students and staff on school premises must adhere to the established protocols which include temperature checks, sanitizing of hands, physical distancing and the wearing of masks.

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