Pupils of North Eastern College in Sangre Grande wait in line before entering the schoool on the first day of full classes for forms four to six students, yesterday.

The number of secondary schools where COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported since students returned to the physical classroom for in-person classes has kept increasing.

The latest two schools to join the list includes the Bishop Anstey High School East & Trinity College East (BATCE); and the Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago.

And while the Ministry of Education (MOE) continues to remain silent on whether or not this trend will prompt a review of the decision to continue face-to-face sessions, the Ministry of Health (MOH) yesterday confirmed that 55 positive cases had so far been recorded across the seven education districts in Trinidad.

But, the Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (APPSS) said, “It is not the intention of the Association to ask for any reversal of the decision to have ALL students attend face to face school at this time.”

APPSS President Sherra Carrington-James said they had advocated for all students to attend school and be taught in one modality, that is, face to face learning.

She said tremendous support via technologically based strategies over the last 20 months had ensured teaching and learning processes continued.

Asked if they were aware of or had received any reports from parents regarding the mixing of vaccinated and unvaccinated students in schools, she said, “The numbers of parents with concerns about vaccinated students being exposed to unvaccinated peers are not in any way large.”

Commending the Ministry of Education for its efforts to bring students back out to schools physically, Carrington-James said while principals are implementing all the protocols detailed in the Guidelines for the Reopening of Schools – one area of concern was the provision of services by the National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS).

“What we do need is for the MOE to take another hard look at the support services being provided by the MTS and whether MTS is capable of meeting the rigorous requirements that this particular situation demands. The rotation of MTS employees at this time is far from ideal and not supported by the Association,” she indicated.

However, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is shying away from making any pronouncements on the situation. TTUTA president, Antonia Tekah-De Freitas said the Education Ministry is the entity that determines if physical classes will be conducted or if it will be done online.

She said, as such, any changes in the current teaching mechanism will have to come from the ministry.

Vaccinated students in Forms Four to Six returned to the physical classroom on October 4, while unvaccinated students joined their peers in the same physical space on October 25.

On November 11, Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago advised that face-to-face classes for Forms Four to Six had been suspended for the day, “due to concerns associated with COVID-19.”

Officials said online classes would continue until further notice, while a thorough sanitization was undertaken.

And at BATCE on November 8, school officials confirmed that two teachers had tested positive and both schools would remain closed for two days to accommodate deep cleaning exercises.

A school official yesterday said classes are expected to resume as normal today.