Schoolchildren can now be as close as three feet apart when schools finally reopen for face-to-face classes on February 21, instead of the required six-foot physical distance as stated in the COVID-19 protocols.
In addition, both students and teachers will soon be subjected to random COVID-19 testing.
These were among several measures which the Ministry of Education will be implementing for schools and which are contained in a draft document entitled: A Road Map For The Safe Reopening Of Schools In Barbados.
Yesterday, new Minister of Education Kay McConney and key officials in the ministry, including Chief Education Officer Ramona Archer-Bradshaw, as well as Chief Medical Officer (CMO), The Most Honourable Dr Kenneth George, met first with the principals’ and teachers’ unions, and then with teachers to inform them about the measures, some of which will be immediate and others to follow.
In terms of the three-feet distance which many teachers questioned, George explained that it was part of the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States and the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO).
Both he and McConney stressed that masks should be worn, sanitisation stations placed throughout the schools, and if anyone fell ill while at school, they should leave the premises. Also, people should not attend school if they were feeling unwell and those exposed to the virus should stay home and get tested.
In addition, they said children who test positive will have to produce a medical certificate to return to school.
Come February 21, reception, nursery, special schools, Infants A and B and Class 4 primary pupils, as well as Forms 1, 4, 5 and 6 at secondary schools will return to the classrooms. This will be assessed and the following week they will be joined by Classes 1, 2 and 3 in the primary schools, and second and third formers at secondary schools.
School will start at 8:45 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.