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Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

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Over 90 projects are ongoing at the nation’s schools as the Ministry of Education gets ready for the possible physical reopening of schools next month.

Only students from Forms Four, Five and Six are expected to return on February 8.

But in an interview with Guardian Media yesterday, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said while works continue in some schools, other schools are earmarked to be used as an examination centre for the CXC January exams which begin on January 18.

“Physically, schools are generally prepared for the possible opening. School repair projects continue, with over 90 projects ongoing at this time. Any issues which have arisen at schools are being prioritized, including placing sinks at entrances where needed,” she said.

She noted that the third draft of the Reopening Guidelines has been prepared and will be discussed with health officials to ensure there is little risk to students and staff.

“There are no indications of more challenges than were faced in Term One. However, more students continue to receive devices through the Adopt-a-School programme. This should alleviate some of the issues being faced,” she added.

So far 10,000 devices have been donated.

“The distribution of TATT devices to students, prioritizing Standards Five and Forms Five and Six have begun across the country. Eight hundred were distributed to schools in December, and by next week, 2,400 more should be sent out to schools,” Gadsby-Dolly said noting that 10,000 devices donated will be distributed to schools over the next few weeks.

The Minister also said that teacher training continues.

“Teachers started on January 11 with online training from NotesMasters in the United Kingdom which is based on the use of online content prepared by local teachers as well as the ability to create content on this platform. So the training of teachers which began in March 2020 and continued for the rest of that year continues into 2021,” she explained.

Support is also being given to students virtually through Student Support Services.

“These officers received training in online delivery and have been interacting virtually with students since that time, so that system is still available and we encourage students to access it,” she added.

Meanwhile, secretary-general of the Sanathan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) Vijay Maharaj said while both primary and secondary schools owned by the Maha Sabha are ready for reopening, the SDMS wanted the government to bring out Standard Fours as well.

“Schools are large enough to maintain social distancing for both Standard Fours and Standard Fives. For the secondary schools, we suggest CXC Exam students from Forms 5 and 6, not the Form Fours,” Maharaj said.

However, he recommended that Form Fours be allowed to stay home.

“This time of the year T&T has a Carnival mentality and we believe this will threaten health protocols and push back schools reopening,” he added.

He also said there are no fixed teaching hours or for lunch and recess.

“Will parents send their children to school or will fear and rumourmongering affect the reopening attempt,” Maharaj said.

He said the school feeding programme should resume once schools resume catering for needy children.