By Shermain Bique-Charles
Preparations for the imminent reopening of schools will seemingly stretch state finances further as officials commit to provide more resources to ensure the safety of staff and students.
Government will be placing 50 tents at the entrance of public schools, where some 94 trained personnel will be redeployed to monitor the temperatures of students, Cabinet announced yesterday.
These men and women will also be tasked with enforcing physical distancing among students on the compounds.
Additionally, 85 new teachers will be added to the system in order to ensure that, in the event a teacher is absent, classes won’t be doubled up, as has been the norm in the past.
There is also a need to add 26 cleaners, 20 groundsmen and 50 security officers, all to be drawn from public service departments which are currently “not very busy”.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told press yesterday that those recruited would come from within government.
“They said, whereas they are going to pull these persons from within the system, there is a process where they are going to train these persons and orient them,” he explained.
He added however that if persons within the system fail to meet the required qualifications, the government may have to look “outside of the system”.
Nicholas said the latest decision comes on the heels of a request from the Director of Education, Clare Browne, and six education officers to the Cabinet this week.
“The government has some concerns about expanding its salaries and wages envelope given the depression in its own revenue intake…but given the compelling presentation by the Ministry of Education, they were granted the assurance that government will support it,” he said.
The Ministry of Health has also agreed to provide an initial supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for the opening of school and the Ministry of Education, through the Board of Education, will meet the cost of purchasing subsequent supplies.
Around 20,000 face shields will also be provided to be worn by teachers, administrators and others involved in keeping order at the learning institutions.
The Ministry of Health has also established two dedicated telephone numbers so that in the event of an emergency at any school, a special ambulance will be dispatched with trained personnel to assist the school’s nurse and transport the sick person to the new Infectious Diseases Control Centre, should that be necessary.
Some 23,000 students are expected to begin to return to the classrooms from Monday.