With the exception of students in primary and secondary schools writing exams or those preparing to write examinations in a year or two, almost all other students would report to physical classrooms twice a week.
This was one of the major proposals found in the second draft guidelines for the reopening of schools issued to stakeholders by the Ministry of Education. The document was obtained by Guardian Media.
The other stand out proposal was that parents may be allowed to apply for their children to continue to rely solely on virtual classes when the phased reopening of schools commences, early next month.
According to the 57-page document, which was put forward following stakeholder consultations, last month, parents interested in the option must make requests and justify them to the principals of their children’s schools. Parents must guarantee that their children would have adequate home supervision during online classes and must show that they (the students) are equipped with digital devices and internet connectivity. Students’ performance in online classes over the past year would be considered, with 75 per cent previous attendance and no incidents of previous online indiscipline being pre-requisites. Teachers would also have to recommend such a course.
Ministry approval on a case by case basis would also be required.
The documents stated that Standard Four and Five students in Primary Schools and Forms Four to Six students in Secondary Schools would be required to return to school in September and October. Four Plus students at Early Childhood and Care Centres (ECCC) are also expected to begin classes during that period.
All other students of primary, secondary and ECCCs are expected to be brought out on a rotational basis from October with all being required to attend physical classes two days per week except Infants to Standard One students, who would be only required to attend school one day per week.
The document stated that all students over the age of eight would be mandated to wear masks whilst on the school compound, while students between the ages of three and eight should wear their masks as much as possible especially when having indoor activities.
Schools were authorised to operate within normal school hours, but were given the option to extend hours to assist students, who may have fallen behind due to lack of access to online classes.
The ministry advised that students, who like all visitors to schools would be temperature checked and required to wash their hands before entering schools, should not be allowed to mingle.
Morning assemblies should only be done on PA systems unless social distancing can be facilitated and must include a motivational message and repetition of COVID-19 guidelines and protocols.
“Breaks (bathroom visits, lunch) should be staggered (where possible),” it stated, as it noted that students should eat and/or drink in their classrooms.
Students and staff, who display flu like symptoms, must be immediately taken to each school’s designated quarantine area and Educational District Medical Teams, which include two registered nurses, must be contacted.
The ministry also gave a timetable for the school term, which highlighted the orientation and debriefing exercises to be performed by teachers, as well as assessments of students to determine their learning loss and potential remedial action.
“Where there is adequate staff and physical accommodation, the option of students who are identified as most at risk for learning loss to attend school physically on a daily basis whilst the other students continue the rotating system, may be utilised for a period of time to allow for the closing of the gap,” it said.
The ministry noted that all surfaces in classrooms should be wiped with a bleach and water solution before and after classes.
“High-traffic areas and high-contact surfaces are frequently sanitised with the recommended disinfecting solutions,” it said.
The ministry also recommended the non-sharing of books and food and prohibited the use of rags. Students were also advised to bring a personal supply sanitiser and/or hand soap.
Principals were also advised to make requests through the substitute teacher system to ensure that they have enough staff to address the needs of their students while adhering to the recommendations.
While it noted that teachers and staff are encouraged to get vaccinated if willing, it claimed that strict adherence to COVID-19 protocols was necessary to ensure the success of the reopening as there is also no current local vaccination policy for children ages 12 to 18 with parental consent.
After the first draft guidelines were published by the ministry, the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) complained about being given a weekend’s notice to study the document before a meeting between the ministry and stakeholders. Contacted yesterday, TTUTA President Antonia Tekah-DeFreitas noted that after TTUTA raised its concerns over the consultation, it still participated in the meeting of stakeholders and provided its views in writing, subsequently.
Tekah-DeFreitas said she was on vacation and had not gotten an opportunity to peruse the document and determine if TTUTA’s suggestions were adopted. She suggested contacting TTUTA’s First Vice President Marlon Seales. However, Seales did not answer calls to his cellphone late yesterday evening.