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National Primary Schools Prinicipals’ Association president Lance Mottley

While face-to-face classes may be the best preparation for students set to write national and regional examinations in 2021, there are still some concerns about children adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines.That is at least for primary school students. National Primary Schools Principals’ Association (NPSPA) president Lance Mottley told Sunday Guardian that the Government’s decision to reopen schools to Standard Five pupils in February was one of several proposals his members made to the Ministry of Education. During Saturday’s Office of the Prime Minister’s media conference, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced that schools would reopen virtually for the school population on January 4. Once the COVID-19 numbers are acceptable in the following month, the Government may allow students sitting the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) back in schools. It would be the same for secondary schools students preparing for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination.Mottley said physical classes was the best preparation for the younger students. However, the NPSPA understands there is a risk in bringing them back out.”Our main challenge is physical distancing among the students, particularly during the break time and lunchtime, so I think there are other logistics to work out. We also made other kinds of proposals in cases where there might be in large school population for students to attend on a rotational basis so that we can better control the numbers during break time and lunchtime. The only way we can know is to try and see if it can work. It will be different this time as there are additional arrangements,” Mottley said.On March 13, Rowley ordered the closure of all places of learning for one week, a day after the Ministry of Health confirmed T&T’s first COVID-19 case. As the caseload increased, schools remained closed. On July 20, the Ministry of Education allowed approximately 19,000 SEA students back into schools. Within days, infected students began showing up in the school system.Back then, Chief Medical Officer Dr Roshan Parasram said it was difficult for young children to social distance and Mottley admitted it was a challenged for school staff to keep children apart. It led to the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association to call on the Ministry of Education to hire school monitors. TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas was unavailable for a comment Saturday. As stakeholders prepare for the possible physical reopening of schools, Mottley said the COVID-19 situation remains fluid, making it hard to make medium or long-term plans. He said principals would continuously assess the school setting and if necessary, request additional resources from the ministry.

Guardian Media reached out to Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools president Sherra Carrington-James, but there was no response.