All schools told to reopen January 3 despite low vax rate
WILLIAMS... had set a 65 per cent vaccinaton target for schools to reopen for face-to-face classes

THE education ministry says all public primary and secondary schools are to officially reopen for face-to-face learning on Monday, January 3, but it is unclear whether the minimum 65 per cent vaccination coverage for secondary schools, remains a requirement for face-to-face classes.

Efforts to get clarity from the education ministry yesterday were unsuccessful. So far, 69, 731 students 12-18 years have been fully vaccinated, or about 21.3 per cent of those within that age group, the health ministry told the Jamaica Observer yesterday. In November, 56,000 of the secondary school population of 206,635 were allowed to return to the classroom to prepare for exit examinations.

Education Minister Fayval Williams, in a statement to Parliament on November 29, announced that all primary schools, as well as secondary schools, with at least 65 per cent vaccination coverage, were being given the go — ahead to return to face-to-face learning.In the latest bulletin issued by the ministry yesterday, signed by Chief Education Officer Dr Kasan Troupe, there was no specific mention of the percentage vaccination criteria. It said secondary schools should submit to their regional offices the “data showing the student vaccination rate”, and that all individuals working in the school environment are expected to be vaccinated.“Therefore, those who work in the school environment are expected to be present for work once the students are scheduled to be in the physical environment for classes and as guided by the staff deployment schedule. Persons with comorbidities are encouraged to get vaccinated and observe the COVID protocols as they carry out their daily duties on the school compound,” the ministry stated, while also urging vendors who operate at or in the vicinity of schools to get the jab.

Meanwhile, in order to be approved for face-to-face reopening, schools must get a satisfactory institutional health inspection and COVID-19 -compliant approval report from the Ministry of Health and Wellness for the 2021/2022 academic year, and submit copies to their regional offices.This is along with a letter signed by their board chairmen indicating the extent of the parent consultation and the start date for face-to-face. The ministry says the letter to the regional offices should also outline the approach to be used – whole day or rotational.

Minister Williams has emphasised that a blended, rotational approach should be used with at least two days of face-to-face contact. However, the latest bulletin also noted, “Where the COVID-19 protocols allow, all the students may be accommodated daily”. Reopening is to be “completed” by January 7, once the health conditions are met, and the reorientation and administrative activities are done, the ministry said.

– Alphea Sumner

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