The Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training will be hiring additional ancillary staff and redeploying others evenly across the system to ensure that school plants are sanitised according to COVID-19 safety protocols, when schools reopen this month.
Minister of Education, Santia Bradshaw, made this disclosure last night during the first of a number of updates to apprise Barbadians on the measures being taken to reopen schools safely.
“Perhaps the biggest issue for everyone has been the question of sanitisation of the school plants, and whether we are going to hire additional staff, whether we are going to deploy people differently. I think it is a combination of both at this stage that we have agreed upon.
“We recognise there are some school plants that have decreased their numbers, but they have a higher complement of general workers and maids. And, we therefore need to redeploy persons across the system to ensure we can sanitise the school plants in keeping in line with all of the respective protocols,” she stated.
Ms. Bradshaw added that training for ancillary staff, which began earlier this year before Class Four students returned to school to prepare for the 1-Plus exam, would continue. She noted that there would be a training session on Thursday, September 10, for all janitors across the system “to prepare them for what is required, and to provide them with a refresher that may be necessary to fulfill their obligations within the school plant”.
Additionally, the Education Minister pointed out that while there were general protocols for the reopening of schools, as well as protocols for special needs students, the Ministry had been working with its stakeholders to prepare additional protocols for the use of science labs, as well as for physical education and music programmes.
“Many of these programmes and disciplines require students to work together. They also require them to use instruments in the classroom, or equipment for the pasture. So therefore, the protocols will be separate, but also included in the general protocols we are providing for the reopening of schools. Those protocols should be released over the course of the next few days. We are trying to fine tune [them],” she said.
Ms. Bradshaw also explained that the Ministry was looking to “expand school plants” by utilising churches and community centres to house students who cannot be at the school plant all at the same time. She said COVID-19 protocols were already in place at these facilities, which would make for a smooth transition.
However, she noted that there would have to be administrative support in terms of Wi-Fi for those teachers and students who have to work offsite. And, there would also need to be logistical co-ordination with the School Meals Department once students were accommodated off the school plant. “In many communities, we have access to both community centres and churches, and I firmly believe that we cannot only use churches when we are having environmental issues, but we have to utilise many of these facilities particularly now so that we can get our students into the face-to-face environment,” Ms. Bradshaw emphasised.