The Department of Education has been working closely with the Department of Health over the past five (5) months to reopen schools responsibly.
Our priority is and will continue to be ensuring safe, healthy school environments for our staff and students.
As parents prepare to send their children to our schools, we want to reassure parents that we have planned carefully, intentionally and responsibly for the reopening of our schools.
We will implement many safety and health measures in our schools to reduce safety and health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will need the full cooperation of our parents and staff to achieve maximum success.
The Department of Health has developed protocols or procedures that step out what our school staff will do to keep the environment safe, healthy and productive for students and themselves. The protocols also include what to do if a student or staff becomes unwell during the school day. These protocols are posted on the Ministry of Education’s Website in the COVID-19 section.
Additionally, the Department of Health has provided school staff with the opportunity for free testing prior to the return of our students.
Next week Monday, September 14th, when our students report to school, they will report in uniform and that uniform has expanded to include wearing a cloth or disposable mask to school each day. Students at the preschool and primary levels will wear face masks to and from school and for certain activities; however, students at the middle and senior levels, like our staff, will wear masks throughout the day with intermittent breaks.
School premises will open at 8:30am from the preschool to middle level; as students and parents arrive, they will participate in a compulsory entry screening which consists of taking temperatures and answering COVID 19 questions before proceeding to their classrooms.
As an additional safety measure, parents and non-essential visitors will not be able to enter school buildings until further notice.
Classrooms have been configured according to 3 feet distancing and students will be organized in “bubbles” which will be maintained throughout each day, including morning, afternoon and lunch breaks.
Students will be required to follow the safety and health procedures when indoors and out of doors, with main measures being physical distancing; frequent hand washing; respiratory etiquette; and disinfecting personal spaces and equipment.
The Department is providing our staff with personal protection equipment and ensuring that all classrooms and work spaces have sanitizing and disinfecting supplies available for staff and students to use throughout the day.
This week all of the Bermuda public school staff are engaging in simulations and training based on the safety and health protocols to help staff gain first-hand knowledge and understanding of the protocols. Staff will also learn how to put on and take of PPE correctly.
During the first week back, Recovery Week, students will learn new routines and expectations, especially as it relates to school safety and health. Schools with balance academics with a focus on student wellness and they will assess student well-being.
Students who are deemed extremely clinically vulnerable and who are unable to come into the school environment will be provided with a laptop and they will be able to join their teacher and students in their class remotely.
Schools which will operate morning programmes will notify parents. Afterschool programmes will be run mainly by the Department of Youth and Sports.
As parents prepare children for the return to school, it will be important to help students to understand that schools will operate differently and they, the children, need to follow the safety and health protocols which are in place to keep staff, students and ultimately families, safe.
I extend my gratitude to Department of Health and Department of Education technical officers for their tireless efforts to help us open schools responsibly.
Success in reopening our schools responsibly and safely depends on the support of the entire community - including Bermuda's employers - and collaboration between the direct stakeholders of the Bermuda Public School system, that is our parents, our staff and our students.