Seventeen schools in nine parishes with approximately 6,000 students are to resume face-to-face classes from November 9 to 20, under a two-week E-COVID face-to-face pilot programme.
The Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams, indicated that 12 of the schools are at the primary level and five at the secondary level. This was highlighted during her address at a virtual press conference at the Office of the Prime Minister Media Centre in Kingston, on Wednesday.
She explained that the 17 schools were selected from a pool of 73 schools that were assessed to be of low risk. The conclusion that the schools were of low risk was based on a number of factors. The factors include enrolment capacity, Internet availability, and reliability, access to water, distance traveled to school and given that the 73 schools represent 58,540 students plus teachers.
“So, to be extra cautious we will be starting with a subset of that. So, we’ll be doing an E-COVID face-to-face pilot of approximately 20 per cent of the 73 schools,” she added.
The parishes that will be included in the pilot are Clarendon, Manchester, Portland, St. Ann, St. Elizabeth, St. James, Westmoreland, St. Thomas, and Trelawny.
“During the first few days, the Ministry will be working with the schools and parents to ensure that the parents and students have the necessary information to prepare for the face-to-face opening on November 9,” the Minister said.
“During that time, November 9 to 20, we will be assessing to determine how well this is working, whether schools are abiding by the protocol, and whether or not there are other emerging issues that we will need to take into consideration to inform future decisions,” she added.
Protocols for Pilot Face-to-face Programme
The Minister, in the meantime, encouraged the principals for the schools that will be reopened to exercise a duty of care for the students and teachers who will be participating in the pilot.
In terms of protocols, all students must wear a mask, and schools are forbidden from turning back students who are not wearing safety gear bearing school colours.
“The important thing is that students show up in masks, and if a student does not show up in a mask, one should be provided,” the Minister said.
She also emphasized the importance of adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, including temperature checks and logs, handwashing, physical distancing markers, sanitizing stations, and isolation areas with the necessary facilities.
“We are aware that students being in the physical classroom environment is important. Being in a school environment helps our children to develop friendships and social skills. It is also a place of safety, and we know, as well, that schools help to develop interests or extracurricular activities –the football, the chess, the math and science or dance, and so on,” the Minister said.