Students of St Joseph Convent in San Fernando leave the school after sitting exams yesterday.

The Ministry of Education has proposed the introduction of a shift system in some schools to facilitate COVID-19 protocols when the new school year begins on September 1.

The proposal was revealed in a document on guidelines for the reopening of schools that was published by the ministry’s School Supervision and Management Division, last Thursday.

Stating that classrooms at secondary schools had already been reorganized to facilitate six feet of physical distancing during CXC and CAPE examinations, which began yesterday, the ministry said that such requirements may be adjusted by the time schools reopen.

It said that based on spacing constraints in schools a roster system would have to be implemented to ensure that all students receive the same tuition.

It sought to give an example of how the system could work in practice.

“The school creates two groups in each class, group A and group B. Group A and Group B will attend school on alternate days. A school that has a current five-day timetable (be it a Monday to Friday or a five-day cycle system) will then have a 10-day cycle,” it stated.

It said that Group A students will attend school on the first day of the cycle, while the other group participates in online teaching. Group B will attend school on the second day with Group A students utilising the same online teaching utilised by the other group on the previous day.

The ministry suggested that larger classes could be split into additional groups by increasing the length of the cycle accordingly.

“In creating groups for the purposes of rotation, each day of the timetable should be repeated to coincide with the number of groups,” it said.

In the document, the ministry also admitted that while it aimed for 100 per cent participation in online learning since schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hampered by connectivity issues and lack of access to ICT devices.

Recognising the issue, the ministry stated that teachers should reteach material that was covered in the online classes if there was less than 50 per cent participation by students.

It also stated that students without access to such technology at home should be allowed to use school facilities during or after school.

“On day per cycle should be scheduled to students who had no access to online learning,” it said.

In terms of entry requirements at schools, principals were advised to place signs at entrances indicating that there would be no entry without a mask.

Sinks are to be placed at entrances to facilitate hand-washing, with school officials required to test visitors’ and students’ temperature using a hand-held infrared thermometer.

Schools are required to keep a log of students who record a higher than the normal temperature on consecutive days.

Students who exhibit flu-like symptoms are to be placed in designated quarantine rooms until they are picked up by the parents or guardians. Visitors, who present similar symptoms are not to be allowed to enter.

Floor signs indicating proper social distancing should also be installed.

The ministry also advised against traditional morning assemblies instead suggesting that it be done on a rotation system with different days being assigned to different classes or forms. Smaller schools were advised to utilise their PA systems.

The ministry also sought to ensure proper sanitation at schools as each was mandated to have 50 per cent of water storage capacity at all times and to clean wash-room facilities and classrooms more frequently. The ministry identified bleach and water as its preferred disinfectant for sanitation.

It also advised that breaks inclusive of the lunch break should be lagged for different students to ensure social distancing is maintained in the cafeteria and other common areas.

Students were still advised that they should walk with their personal supply of hand sanitiser or hand soap.

The ministry noted that students should wear their masks even when coughing or sneezing and that rags are prohibited.

“Students should be discouraged from sharing food and drink, books, stationery, and other personal items,” it said.