As schools across the island prepare to welcome students next month, the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training (METVT) has sought to reassure school staff, parents and students that the necessary steps have been taken to ensure the safe return to the physical classroom.
This follows the announcement by Minister Santia Bradshaw that there will be a phased resumption of face-to-face instruction from April 20. The school day will run from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Based on a proposal agreed to by Cabinet, teachers and ancillary staff are to report in-person to their respective schools on Monday, April 19, while Class Three and Four primary school students, and their secondary counterparts in Fifth and Sixth Forms would do so the following day.
The Ministry has confirmed in a release today that the phased reopening also applies to nursery schools and special needs schools/units, with class schedules being determined by input from the schools’ management teams, the Ministry and direction from the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit.
Teachers and ancillary staff are to report in-person to their respective schools on Monday, April 19, while Class Three and Four primary school students, and their secondary counterparts in Fifth and Sixth Forms would do so the following day.Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training
It has further advised that a blended approach, a mix of online and in-person classes, would be used for other students “until a gradual return to full face-to-face can be accommodated”.
The METVT gave the assurance that it would be working with the Health and Safety Committee at each school to ensure all COVID-19 safety protocols were reviewed, implemented and monitored. Additionally, school monitors would be on duty at nursery, special needs and primary schools from Monday, April 19.
It was noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has recommended mandatory mask wearing for all persons on the school compound. To this end, the Ministry of Education has committed to “continue to distribute cloth masks to public schools on request”.
Meanwhile, “mask breaks” for students would be allowed during the school day. Additionally, persons would be permitted to wear face shields or goggles if they so desire.
It further stated that the booklet on the Guidelines for the Safe Operation of Schools in Barbados has been updated, following discussions with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Wellness. This would be available online from Monday, March 29.
“…a blended approach, a mix of online and in-person classes, would be used for other students “until a gradual return to full face-to-face can be accommodated”.Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training
On the matter of meals, packed lunches would be provided by the School Meals Department at public primary, special needs and nursery schools. Canteens would be allowed to operate, while students could bring their own lunches.
The METVT indicated that vending may be permitted, but pointed out that strict guidelines would be issued in this regard, after consultation with the Ministry of Health.
The Ministry added that it would continue to provide necessary training for ancillary staff, school monitors, and teachers.
A Mental Health and Wellness Committee would also be established by the METVT to work with teachers and students. It has said that it would “continue to evaluate and monitor the situation and provide further updates prior to the opening of school in Term Three”.