Sun | Nov 28, 2021

Infant schools gear up to reopen

Published:Monday | October 25, 2021 | 12:08 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Acting chief education officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr Kasan Troupe.
Acting chief education officer, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Dr Kasan Troupe.

Approval has been granted for infants zero to five years to return to face-to-face engagement amid the COVID-19 pandemic which has shuttered most schools since March 2020.

The education ministry’s bulletin dated Friday, October 22 is good news for principal of Longville Park Baptist Early Childhood Centre, Idalyne Donald-Blair, who told The Gleaner that teachers and parents are “ready and waiting for school to reopen”.

The Clarendon-based school is awaiting another inspection from the public-health team.

“We have our hand-washing station in place, a temperature gun for each class, a log book for the temperature, social-distancing signs, a sick bay and an isolation area which will be in the church, as it is a church school,” she said.

Blair noted that another classroom will be accommodated in the church, to allow for appropriate distancing among students.

She said each class has a maximum of 10 students but not all will attend school every day.

The principal and two of the school’s three teachers are fully vaccinated.

The third teacher is awaiting a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Lead teacher of the Brain Builder Centre at Sunrays Educational Centre, Jacqueline Saddler, said the institution is scheduled to be inspected today.

“We are hoping to give parents good news. If we get a satisfactory report from the ministry, we will open on Tuesday,” she said of the Mannings Hill Road, St Andrew, institution.

Saddler shared that five of 12 teachers have so far received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our parents are very anxious for school to reopen. We are online but some people just can’t manage it. Some parents go to work and leave their children with grandparents who can’t really navigate the online space,” Saddler said.

In a bulletin issued under the signature of the acting chief education officer, Dr Kasan Troupe, clear staff-to-children ratios were outlined.

For children under 13 months, one adult is to supervise five children.

The ratio is one to eight for children over 13 months but younger than three years old.

Children over three but less than five should have a ratio of one adult to 10 children.

Prior to reporting for work in the first instance, staff must be tested for COVID-19.

The bulletin also provided guidelines for the use of linen, cots and cribs, common areas, and the maintenance of bathrooms.

“All rooms at the centre shall be cleaned and sanitised at least twice daily, and door handles and other frequently touched areas and equipment (including strollers and play equipment and other toys) shall be sanitised frequently,” a section of the bulletin read.

In a press statement issued on Friday, the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) offered its support for a phased resumption of in-person classes.

President Winston Smith said the association’s support is subject to some conditions and emphasised that priority ought to be given to students who are preparing for external examinations.

The JTA outlined that the decision must be guided by the Disaster Risk Management Act and that the education ministry must outline a structured resumption plan.

The association also said that all schools must be provided with the required resources, as stipulated by the public-health protocols.

All parishes - with the exception of Kingston and St Andrew, 32, and St Catherine, 25 - registered single-digit cases on Saturday. The positivity rate of nine per cent also presents a change in fortunes from the high 40s that triggered multi-day lockdowns in late August and September.

There are almost 29,000 active cases. More than 2,170 people have died from the disease.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com