Ministry of Education releases updated protocols for schools as Covid-19 cases rise

Minister of Education Daryll Matthew and Director of Education Clare Browne. (file photos)
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By Makeida Antonio

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The Ministry of Education has provided schools with a document of updated protocols as the country battles with a rise in active Covid-19 cases.

On Tuesday, the dashboard released by the Ministry of Health revealed 203 new Covid-19 cases, a trend that has been concerning residents since the absence of a curfew following the Christmas season.

Director of Education Clare Browne said that the Ministry will continue to monitor the situation and has asked that schools remain vigilant in ensuring that the spread of the Covid-19 virus remains under control.

The updated protocols include new information pertaining to vaccination and swabbing as well as quarantine and isolation measures.

“We would have developed a protocol document just yesterday would have circulated an updated version of the protocol document that we have sent out to schools. We are asking our principals and our teachers to stick slavishly to the protocols that have been established,” Browne told Observer during an interview yesterday.

He also appealed to parents to get themselves and their eligible children vaccinated, so that students who are unable to be inoculated, for example, are protected against the virus in order for schools to remain open.

“Those of us who are yet to be vaccinated, eligible for the vaccine, then we want to ensure that we would have taken on board every tier of protection that is available to us so that we can protect not only ourselves but we protect others, we protect our children,” the Director of Education suggested.

Meanwhile, Minister of Education Daryll Matthew expressed concern that face-to-face classes could face greater disruptions once again as a result of the rise in Covid cases in Antigua and Barbuda.

He indicated that while the Ministry continues to monitor the spread of the virus, he believes that residents must practice greater personal responsibility.

“It is a concern. I hope it’s not manifested into reality but this is where we need to ask the public to really exercise some responsibility. We speak about public rights and individual rights but nobody speaks about the individual responsibility,” Matthew said on the Good Morning Jojo sports show yesterday.

Matthew also lamented the possibility of reverting to online learning, saying that this method of teaching could bring back challenges for both students and teachers.

“When we ‘braff’ because we are outside, I mean, I understand the frustration of being at home but it has consequences and one of the consequences may very well be the closing of schools at some point in time if cases continue to rise and no one benefits from that,” he noted.

Just two days into the start of the new school term, the numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases are already causing disruption. Four schools returned to online classes yesterday for the rest of the week after a member of staff tested positive for Covid-19.

It has since been revealed that an entire class at the Sunnyside Tutorial School has also been asked to quarantine after a grade five child tested positive. The boy attended school on Tuesday and spent the day among class members, a memo issued to parents stated.

The teacher and the whole class are to be isolated for the next 14 days until January 18th. The youngsters will attend lessons virtually via Google Classroom.

Meanwhile, from yesterday until Friday, pupils at the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Secondary, the SDA Primary School, Bethel SDA Academy and the SDA’s Early Childhood Centre will also be learning virtually.

A statement from the schools’ principals – posted on the Antigua Seventh Day Adventist School Facebook page Tuesday night – assured parents the move was a proactive step to keep staff and students safe.

The measure is necessary, it said, after at least one staff member who was at a professional development session tested positive for the virus. The schools will use the time to sanitise all premises and monitor the situation, it added. Students will use Google Classroom in the interim and a further update will be given over the weekend.

None of the affected schools could be reached for comment.

To date, both vaccinated and unvaccinated students have been permitted to attend school, with the caveat that the unvaccinated children must be tested every 14 days.

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