SEVERAL schools in the Corporate Area are pushing ahead with face-to-face classes despite the sharp rise of COVID-19-positive cases in the past two weeks.
Some parents, as well as doctors, have, however, questioned whether physical classes should continue based on increased challenges due to the onset of the fourth wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has put a strain on the health sector.
But the Andrew Holness Administration has made it clear that there will be no closing of schools under conditions which include a satisfactory health inspection and a COVID-19-compliant approval report from the health ministry.
On Wednesday, when the Jamaica Observer visited primary and infant schools in the Corporate Area, principals explained that they have not been taking chances with children and teachers who have flu-like symptoms.
Principal at Maverley Primary and Infant School Dorothy Taylor said since resumption of face-to-face classes, eight students have been sent home after showing flu-like symptoms.
“One of our teachers was down with COVID-19 and now some students have gone home, and we have heard that it could be COVID-19, but it has not been confirmed. They are supposed to be getting clearance from the doctor to return because we are not taking it lightly,” Taylor told the Observer on Wednesday.
Despite the few hiccups, the principal indicated that she has seen an increase in attendance over the last two weeks.
“They are coming out, but what we do now is a rotation. So you don't have all the children coming out in one day. We have had one or two parents who have expressed fear, but we have told them that if their child has a particular illness, then they should get medical attention to ensure that they do not come here while sick. We have to ensure that we follow the protocols to ensure our students and teachers stay safe,” she added.
Meanwhile, a visit to Jessie Ripoll Primary School, close to the lunch period, saw students busily interacting with their peers while masked.
Principal at the institution, O'Neil Stevens, explained that, even if students were to return to online mode fully, they are more prepared with the necessary skills for virtual learning.
Indicating that there are strict enforcement of safety protocols at his school, Stevens said, “One of the things that we have recognised is that globally we have a winter climate now and so there are some manifestations of flu, and sometimes persons are not too clear as to whether these are symptoms of COVID-19. Notwithstanding that, we have had students admitted to the isolation room and we have been exercising the necessary protocols.”
At Auburn Basic School educators stressed that they are heavily exercising the COVID-19 safety measures, especially since the children are usually quick to touch surfaces and items.
Acting Principal Michelle Morgan said on Wednesday one educator, who turned up for classes, was feeling chills and was immediately sent home.
“I sent her home. She didn't even spend two minutes on the compound,” she said.
“Things are not easy, so we have to put God in it and we have to pray each day. It is not easy because we have to spray the children, sanitise them, go to the bathroom with them because we don't want them to touch anything.”
Class three teacher Audrey Grant added: “I am not fearful because we try to follow the protocols and they are followed by staff and students.”
Meanwhile, principal at Herrick Basic School, Sophia Blair, said there are no COVID-19 cases at her institution.
She pointed out that text message broadcasts are constantly being sent to parents, reminding them to refrain from sending their children to school if flu-like symptoms are detected.
“Thank God we don't have any cases! We are honestly trying our best. We are being careful because we don't want to close down,” said Blair.
Jamaica on Tuesday recorded an additional 1,098 COVID-19 cases, pushing the total to 116,084 since the first case was reported in March 2020. Of that number 14,962 are active, while the virus has killed 2,019 people up to Tuesday. There were 577 people hospitalised for the virus, with 20 critically ill, and another 54 severely ill.