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A group of students walk along Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain.

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Physical classes for Standard Five to Form Three students come February 7.

But while some parents aren’t comfortable with the move, the Ministry of Health is in full support.

Speaking during Wednesday’s virtual media conference, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the risks associated with the return are outweighed by the benefits to students.

“We at the Ministry of Health fully support and fully endorse the position that children who are gradually being reintroduced to physical classrooms is a very wise move,” he said.

“Whatever risks there are, are far outweighed by the benefits to children, the benefits to their parents, the benefits to their socialisation, their access to nutrition, their access to meeting friends. You have some children for two years now who don’t know who their peers are in school. That is not a good thing.”

On Monday, the Ministry of Education released to following guidelines for the phased return to classrooms.

1. Students of Forms One to Three or equivalent are required to return to the physical classroom on February 7, 2022 on a rotational basis–the details of this arrangement for each school will be communicated to parents and students by principals, but all students should be required to attend school physically at minimum two days per week, and five days in a 10-day cycle.

2. Students who are not rostered for physical attendance are to be assigned asynchronous assignments. It is recognised that since February 2021, many teachers have been assigning asynchronous work for Forms One to Three as they straddle both online and physical classes. Teachers have, and will continue to receive guidance and training in methods for maximising hybrid teaching approaches such as the flipped classroom, so that the effectiveness of asynchronous classes will be maximised. Teachers have also received the critical areas for curriculum completion, which will allow them to make the most of physical classes with students.

3. Standard Five students are required to attend school physically from February 7 to March 29; 8:30a.m. to 2p.m., four days a week, in preparation for the SEA on March 31, 2022. On Wednesdays, teaching should be virtual to allow for thorough school cleaning.

4. For the duration of the Academic Year, schools will be mandated to relax school uniform requirements, especially with regard to the colour and type of school shoes. The requisite memo will be sent to Principals, who will guide parents or guardians accordingly.

5. The School Feeding Program, which is already in operation for Term II, will continue to be available to eligible students in physical attendance. School Transport will resume when attendance numbers are finalised.

6. Where approved, as presently obtains, temporary virtual school operation will be utilised, on a case-by-case basis, as a part of the overall COVID management strategy.