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Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly.

Secondary school students in Forms 1-3 will be required to attend classes at least twice a week when schools reopen for physical classes on February 7 and the ministry is also relaxing school uniform rules, particularly with types and colours of shoes.

The Ministry of Education (MoE) yesterday gave a further update on the reopening of classes.

It listed six COVID safety requirements, the first of which involved students of Forms 1-3 or equivalent being required to return to the physical classroom on February 7 on a rotational basis.

The Ministry said 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 2 days per week, and 5 days in a 10-day cycle”.

Secondly, 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 1-3 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,” the Ministry said.

It added that teachers have also received the critical areas for curriculum completion, which will allow them to make the most of physical classes with students.

The third measure involves Standard 5 students being required to attend school physically from February 7 to March 29 from 8.30 am to 2 pm for fours days a week, in preparation for the SEA on March 31.

On Wednesdays, the Ministry said teaching should be virtual to allow for thorough school cleaning.

Fourth, 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 Ministry said the requisite memo will be sent to principals, who will guide parents or guardians accordingly.

Fifth, the School Feeding Programme, 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 finalized.

The last measure notes that where approved, as presently obtains, temporary virtual school operation will be utilized, on a case-by-case basis, as a part of the overall COVID management strategy.

The Ministry said that it held several consultation meetings with stakeholders over the past three months regarding the operations of schools in Term II.

“While there are many different views on the return to physical school and how it should be implemented, the major concerns centred around the safety of all school personnel, and the quality of life and education to which the children of Trinidad and Tobago are exposed,” the statement said.

The Ministry said it remains committed to working with and learning from all stakeholders and making decisions in the best interest of the nation’s children.

On the basis of the decisions taken, it said detailed guidelines will be sent to schools via circular memorandum, and made available to the public, “as the cooperation of parents continues to be crucial to the operations of schools, especially in this time of transition”.

It added: “The Government maintains the position that COVID-19 vaccines are available, and continue to be the best protection against becoming grievously ill if students contract the virus. Parents are therefore strongly encouraged to vaccinate eligible children as they return to the classroom. “