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FLASHBACK - Education Minister Dr Nyan Gasby-Dolly speaks to students in a class at the ASJA Girls’ College in Chaguanas in October 2021. Accompanying her is Minister in the Ministry, Lisa Morris-Julian.

The Ministry of Education (MOE) says it will be issuing a Circular Memorandum to school principals this week to remind them of the entry and safety protocols that must be followed for students in Forms 4 to 6 when reporting to school.

The decision comes as the number of positive COVID cases at schools continues to rise.

The Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, disclosed this on Wednesday evening as she responded to questions from Guardian Media on the matter.

However, she has not indicated if the ministry will be moving to discontinue in-person classes as COVID-19 outbreaks continue to occur in schools.

The Minister added though the protocol advisory being sent to schools will also detail measures regarding the handling and escalation of COVID-19 related matters in instances of positive cases and to ensure primary contacts can be properly managed.

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.

In her response, Gadsby-Dolly said, “Due to the fact that we are in the midst of a global pandemic, it is anticipated that COVID-19 cases would arise in all sectors of society.”

Indicating this mirrored the global circumstance, she recalled, “It was the experience of schools during the February-July 2021 period when Forms 4-6 students were in physical attendance.”

The Minister said that development led to the establishment of the Education District Health Unit (EDHU) which was set up in January 2021 to manage these situations, in collaboration with the County Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) in each district.

Reiterating that the Education Ministry’s reopening guidelines contained clear instructions relating to the entry and safety protocols, as well as those for the handling and escalating of COVID-19 related matters through the District Nurses to the Medical House Officer, the Minister said, “Where sanitization of the premises is deemed necessary by the EDHU and the CMOH, this is done.”

Claiming that the circumstances surrounding cases are different, she continued, “In some cases, this would require school closure, typically for one day, after which physical class can resume.”

Gadsby-Dolly said the National Maintenance Training and Security Company Ltd (NMTS) provided, “these emergency services to most schools, along with daily janitorial services, adjusted according to Ministry of Health (MOH) approved Standard Operating Procedures.”

Indicating that, “When physical classes must be temporarily halted for sanitisation purposes, classes continue online,” she stressed, “When school resumes, persons required to quarantine must do so until they are cleared for physical re-admittance to the school premises.”

The Minister explained that it is expected that contact tracing would be done and quarantine orders issued, and lifted, by Health Ministry officials, with all cases reported at schools are monitored and managed by the EDHU.

Gadsby-Dolly added, “This careful management of COVID-19 cases at schools will continue to be a critical feature of physical schooling during the time of the pandemic.”

“At this time, the MOE continues to advocate for vaccination of all school personnel, which provides the best layer of protection possible so that exposure to the virus does not result in serious illness and hospitalization.”

The Minister urged persons to continue being responsible by washing hands, sanitising, and social distancing.