The Ministry of Education is to conduct random testing among students for COVID-19, at the reopening of schools in September, following the breach of health protocols earlier this month in which students were involved.
The new school year starts on September 7, and it is the first time that all categories of students will return to the classroom since the country went into a State of Emergency and curfew in March.
Education Minister Emmalin Pierre said one of the reasons for this is that many of those returning to the classroom may have been part of the mass gatherings of Jab Jab who violated COVID-19 protocols prohibiting mass gatherings and close physical distance regulations.
“We intend to do some random testing at the schools with support from the Ministry of Health,” she said.
Education Ministry officials held a news conference Tuesday to announce a range of plans and preparations for the return of students.
However, the Minister said there are no plans as of now to conduct temperature checks on students and teachers to monitor for possible infection among the school population.
“This is not included in our protocols. This is something that we must get guidance from the Ministry of Health, that they are comfortable with our schools conducting temperature checks because it is not just checking temperature,” she said.
“It’s also about people’s readiness to do that in terms of the training and the knowledge. And once we talk about getting into health specific things there are things in the law, there are things that we are also guided by,” she added.
According to Minister Pierre, her Ministry will seek the guidance of the Ministry of Health on this matter.
“We will raise this additionally with the Ministry of Health in the coming weeks. Previously they (Ministry of Health) had indicated that this is not necessary. At this stage we have not gotten that indication from the Ministry of Health,” she remarked.
The government has estimated that $1.9m will be needed to cover the cost of reopening and operating schools for four months, September to December.
The senior government minister admitted that it is a significant challenge to accommodate students while maintaining the six feet physical distance requirement and as a result there will be a staggered approach for school attendance, based on the capacity of each school.
The number of students in the classroom at one time will depend on the space available and the specific plan of each school.
Minister Pierre also announced that her Ministry will work with parents who do not want to send their children back to school under the current conditions.
However, she offered no specifics on what level of support would be made available.
Students will be required to wear face masks during classes and during class breaks physical distance must be maintained according to national health protocols now in force.
The minister said that exceptions will be made for students and teachers who are unable to wear a mask over long periods due to other health conditions.