Tufton supports return to the classroom

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton says his Ministry is adequately prepared to respond to any further eventuality that could arise as a result of COVID-19 and therefore supports the full resumption of face-to-face classes.

Tufton pointed out that nearly two years after Jamaica recorded its first COVID-19 case, “[it’s now] a much different period”.

“We are a lot more aware of the response that we can give to our students and to the school environment. There are many lessons that we have learned in terms of controlling the virus [such as] sanitising [and physical] distancing, [among other measures].”

He was speaking during a virtual Town Hall Meeting on the full resumption of face-to-face classes on Friday, which was hosted by the Ministry of Education and Youth.

Tufton said in preparation for the full resumption of classes, a sensitisation exercise was conducted for members of “critical teams”, including teachers and support staff.

He further indicated that additional provisions and protocols were instituted at schools, including establishing hand washing and sanitisation stations, and introducing “mask-breaks”.

Acting Chief Education Officer, Dr Kasan Troupe, who also spoke during the forum, said that at all levels of schools, principals are required to “arrange mask-breaks in a structured way”.

“We don’t want our children to just randomly take off their masks in the classroom, or in their different spaces on the school compound. It has to be structured because we still have to remember that we have a responsibility to keep ourselves safe,” she stated.

Meanwhile, Tufton said maintaining physical distancing protocols in schools could prove challenging.

“We do know that children will play [and] enjoy themselves. But other measures are in place to support our children, [which] I believe, is an excellent countermeasure [when physical distancing] may not be practical,” he contended.

Tufton advised that he and his team plan to visit schools throughout the resumption period, to monitor and “adjust as needed”.

“So we understand that it’s not a ‘one size fits all’ [because situations] may come up that require some pivoting or adjustments. We will take [these] on a case-by-case basis [and] will adjust in a particular school environment, where necessary,” he indicated. (CMC)

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