COVID forces halt in face-to-face classes at 8 schools
Students of Chatsworth All-Age and Infant School queue as they observe social distancing in thisNovember 18, 2020 file photo. Students at schools which have resumed face-to-face classes are alsorequired to wear masks and wash hands often.

EIGHT of the 216 schools that resumed face-to-face classes this month have been forced to retreat following the discovery of several cases of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in their ranks.

Education Minister Fayval Williams made the disclosure during yesterday's sitting of the House of Representatives in downtown Kingston, saying that suspected or confirmed cases of the virus are now on the ministry's radar in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Thomas, Portland, St Mary, Manchester, St Elizabeth, and Clarendon.

She said already in Region One (Kingston and St Andrew), Donald Quarrie High and Penwood High schools have been affected. According to the minister, Donald Quarrie had a case of a student who tested positive. She said the school was closed on January 21, 2021 for sanitisation and psychosocial intervention, and the health ministry has advised that the school remains closed until the completion of contact tracing.

In the case of Penwood High, Williams said a staff member who tested positive was the source. She said the school was subsequently closed for deep sanitisation and will reopen for face-to-face lessons on February 1.

In the meantime, she said all individuals who came in contact with the positive case have been quarantined.

In the ministry's Region Two (St Thomas, Portland, and St Mary) she said St Mary High School has delayed its reopening plan as a senior member of the administrative leadership team has been exposed to the virus and has been sent into quarantine.

“This member's spouse tested positive and the board decided to defer the reopening for a later date,” the education minister disclosed.

In the meantime she said Region Five, which encompasses Manchester and St Elizabeth, reported four cases — one from Sydney Pagon High, one from Fullerswood Primary and Infant School, and two parent cases from Munro College.

“A student from Sydney Pagon tested positive on January 13, after which the school was closed and is scheduled to reopen on February 1 following sanitisation and psychosocial activities,” Williams told the House.

She said in the case of Fullerswood, which reported a teacher testing positive for COVID-19, the school had closed its doors for face-to-face lessons on January 14 and was reopened on January 20 following deep cleaning.

Regarding Munro College, where it was discovered that two parents of students who travel to school daily tested positive for COVID-19, she said face-to-face learning has been suspended for the students who travel to school until the contact tracing, sanitisation and psychosocial activities are completed.

“These students have resumed remote learning activities; face-to-face will continue for boarders. As a matter of caution, the Ministry of Health has notified Munro and Hampton that the students/boarders that have left for the weekend must be quarantined upon return, for 14 days, before they are allowed to re-engage in face-to-face activities,” Williams said.

In Region Seven (Clarendon) two schools — Vere Technical and Kemps Hill High — have been closed due to a positive case and increased cases of community spread, respectively.

“Vere Technical closed face-to-face operation on January 4 after a member of the ancillary staff tested positive. The school was subsequently sanitised on January 15 and 18. Psychosocial activities are ongoing as remote learning continues for all the students. Kemps Hill High School is now closed due to the increased number of positive COVID cases within the communities where the students reside,” the education minister told the House.

She said based on consultations with the parish health inspectors, both Kemps Hill and Vere Technical are scheduled for reopening on February 1.

As of January 25, 2021 there were 292 schools approved for face-to-face operation — 11 infant, 177 primary, and 104 secondary.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

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