I will now provide the House with an update on face-to-face operations as well as suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 in schools.
Madame Speaker, as of January 25, 2021, there were 292 schools approved for face-to-face operation – 11 Infant, 177 Primary Level and 104 Secondary Level institutions. Of the total number of approved schools, 216 schools have started to offer face-to-face instructions in all seven regions for select groups of students.
This comprises of four (4) Infant schools, 137 primary and 75 secondary schools. Twenty (20) schools reopened in Region One, 18 in Region Two, Region Three has 20 schools opened, Region Four has 34 schools, Region Five has 67, Region Six has 9 and Region Seven has 48 schools. The School Operations Unit continues to provide monitoring support. The other schools will commence operations during the month of February 2021.
All other schools continue to operate using a mix of the three (3) learning approaches: Online, Audio-Visual and the Learning Kits. The televised and radio instruction schedules have been circulated to all schools to guide their use. Also, the electronic links to the archived audio-visual lessons and learning kits have been shared with all schools to support lessons at the school level and on demand.
Madame Speaker, with regard to suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19, eight schools across four Regions (Regions 1, 2, 5, & 7) have been affected by suspected cases of the COVID-19 virus since the inclusion of face-to-face instructions as guided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness assessment on COVID compliant institutions.
There were no suspected or confirmed cases in Regions 3, 4 and 6.
Madame Speaker, Region one (Kingston and St. Andrew) has reported two schools that were affected (Donald Quarrie High and Penwood High). Donald Quarrie had a suspected case of a student being infected, who subsequently tested positive. The school was closed on January 21, 2021 for sanitization and psychosocial intervention. The Ministry of Health and Wellness has advised that the school remains closed until they have completed their contact tracing.
Penwood High had a staff member who tested positive and the school was subsequently closed for deep sanitization and will reopen for face-to-face lessons on February 1, 2021. All individuals who came in contact with the positive case have been quarantined.
Region Two (St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary), Madame Speaker, has reported that St. Mary High 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.
Region Five (Manchester and St. Elizabeth) reported four cases – one from Sydney Pagon, one from Fullerswood Primary and Infant School and two parent cases from Munro College. A student from Sydney Pagon tested positive on January 13, 2021 after which the school was closed and is scheduled to reopen on February 1, 2021following sanitization and psychosocial activities. Fullerswood reported a teacher-testing positive for COVID and the school closed its doors for face-to-face lessons on January 14, 2021 and was reopened on January 20, 2021, following deep cleaning.
Regarding Munro College, Madame Speaker, The MoHW informed that two parents of students who travel to school (day students) tested positive for COVID-19. As such, face-to-face learning has been suspended for the students who travel to school until the contact tracing, sanitization 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.
Region Seven (Clarendon) reported two schools being closed – Vere Technical and Kemps Hill High 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 sanitized on January 15 and 18, 2021. 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. Based on consultation with the parish Health Inspectors, both Kemps Hill and Vere Technical are scheduled for reopening on February 1, 2021.
Madame Speaker, it was reported in the media over the weekend that some school administrators were asking parents to sign letters of indemnity waiver in the event their child or ward contracts the COVID-19 virus while attending face-to-face classes. I want to reiterate that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has issued no such directive nor endorsed any proposal for schools to issue letters of indemnity waiver to parents.
Children must be educated, and it is our duty, through the leadership of our schools to ensure all the safety measures are in place and are maintained without compromise. This is precisely why we do not approve schools for face-to-face instructions without them satisfying the COVID-19 compliant standards of the Ministry of Health and Wellness and evaluated as being low-risk using our risk-ranking database guided by geoinformatics and demographic data. The schools are also monitored through announced and unannounced visits by the Health Inspectors, our Safety and Security Officers and our Education Officers to guarantee full compliance and the ultimate safety of our learners and staff in our schools.
Thank you Madame Speaker.