Some secondary schools are planning to separate the vaccinated from the unvaccinated on Monday when all forms four to six students return to physical school, while others have no intention of doing so.
On October 20, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly announced that on October 25, all upper form students are required to attend physical classes at school regardless of their covid19 vaccine status. Consequently, all online classes for forms four to six students will end.
Affieza Ogeer, secretary of the ASJA education board of management said, “The principals have a task with 48 hours to change their timetables to suit the ministry’s directive. It’s a challenge but they are working overtime to put things in place.”
The Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) board is in charge of six secondary schools: ASJA Boys' and Girls' Colleges in San Fernando and Charlieville, ASJA Girls' College in Tunapuna and ASJA Girls' College in Barrackpore.
Ogeer said each has a different-sized school, rooms, populations and resources, so the principals are working on solutions to best suit their schools so that the children are educated in a safe environment.
Some of the measures include increased security to check for vaccination cards and temperature testing on entry to ensure students are within the normal temperature range. Some timetables are to be adjusted to accommodate students and some schools have a shift or rotation system so all children will be attended to. Some schools plan to use the school’s auditorium for classes with a large number of students, such as math and English. And some have arranged to place vaccinated and unvaccinated students in separate classrooms.
However, several issues still need to be addressed by the ministry.
“Many of the things that the ministry has said would be in place are not really in place. For instance the substitute teachers. If I have a Form 4 class with 30 students, the physical classroom could only hold ten. They have a major challenge of how the other 20 in two different classrooms would be supervised.”
Also, although sanitisation of the schools is scheduled, she said the limited supplies provided by the ministry are inadequate as they may last a week or two, and there is no forthcoming financial support to put things in place.
On the other hand, Fr Gregory Augustine, principal of Fatima College, does not expect any problems and has no intention of separating his students.
When asked if he was considering having the vaccinated and unvaccinated in different classes he said, “Oh no, no, no. That’s not happening. There wasn’t even a discussion of that. I could see the concern if you have a high unvaccinated population, but we have a 95 per cent compliance rate."
On Saturday, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh again urged parents to protect their children and get them vaccinated as physical school resumes to include unvaccinated students in the upper forms.
“Forms four, five, and six bringing out children, in my view, I think the Minister of Education has done the correct thing, because this is about total child development, bearing in mind that the public health measures of masking are going to be in place, as opposed to a safe zone where you have to take off your mask to socialise, to eat, and drink and so on.”
He said the country had to learn to live with the virus, close the learning gap in education, and prevent the economy from collapsing.
Deyalsingh added that safe zones were environments for social gathering so that businesses could operate and create employment. And while the ministry asked as many businesses as possible to sign on to the safe zone policy, it was voluntary, with some business owners having made the personal decision to operate outside the policy.