School Return to In-Person Learning Update

Friday, October 8th, 2021

Good Day and Welcome,

As I did last Friday, I wish to update the public on the plans to transition our public schools from remote learning to in-person instruction. Since the previous update, there have been 7 Pre-Schools, 12 Primary schools, 1 middle school and 1 alternative school that have reached over 80% Parent consent.  These schools have either completed or are being scheduled for the Pre-Return testing. 

I want to take this time to congratulate these schools, especially Southampton Pre-School, that returned to in-person classes yesterday and St. Paul's Pre-School and Lagoon Park Pre-School, which returned to in-person classes today. 

While Gilbert Institute was scheduled to return today, that return will be delayed until Monday to allow some additional cleaning to happen within the school. Port Royal and West Pembroke are cleared to return to in-person learning on Monday

 Other schools that have gone over 80% Parent Consent and have completed Pre-Return Testing are Victor Scott Pre-School, East End Primary, Purvis Primary, Prospect Primary and Success Academy Robert's Avenue.  The Parents and Staff of the other schools mentioned are currently on standby to receive notification about whether or not their school will re-open next week as we continue to review the Pre-Return testing data.

 I want to pause for a minute to thank the parents and guardians of all the students that have given their consent for the Saliva Screening Program to support their school in meeting the target for re-opening. We hope to see more parents give consent and more schools re-opening in the upcoming weeks. It is critical that we re-open our schools for in-person learning and keep them open.  The Screening program is critical to doing this, and I encourage any parent or guardians who have not consented to reconsider and do so.

 I am also pleased to report that we have ten (10) more schools which have reached consent for 80% or more of their students to participate in the Saliva Screening Programme. These schools are:

1.      Dellwood Middle School

2.      Elliot Primary

3.      Heron Bay Primary

4.      Lyceum Pre-school

5.      Northlands Primary

6.      St. David's Primary

7.      St. George's Preparatory

8.      St. George's Pre-school

9.      Victor Scott Primary

10.    Warwick Preschool

This now takes us to a total of 21 out of 36 schools that have met or exceeded the 80% target for consent for the COVID Screening Programme. These schools will be scheduled for PCR Pre-Return testing, and parents can expect to receive notification from the Department of Education with location, dates and times  to test.

I can also report that we have 77% of the students in our public schools with consent for the Saliva Screening Programme.

 We have received questions about the need to hold Pre-Return testing and have been challenged with authority to require a negative test before being allowed to return to school.  Parents and guardians, I reiterate that we all need to do what is best for the safety of our entire school population.  It is a given that knowing your COVID status before returning to school is something all of us should want to know.  Our stance is firm and is supported by the Education Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.  A negative test is required to return to school, and failure to produce such will result in your child receiving take-home packets until a negative PCR test is received.

I am also pleased to report that the Ministry and Department of Education met with the Ministry and Department of Health this morning.  The current COVID Guidelines for schools were discussed as we look to make modifications to keep our school safe and open for learning.  Additionally, we discussed the quarantine policy around positive detection within a school and the use of Lateral Flow testing to supplement the current Saliva COVID Screening Program.  We all agree that positive cases will be found as we grapple with the pandemic, but a more nuanced approach to quarantining for positive students needs to be developed. It is the desire not to have to quarantine an entire class if a positive case is detected in that class. More updates will be forthcoming on the enhanced policies in the near future.

The Department of Education will hold online meetings in the upcoming weeks to listen to parent concerns about the COVID Screening Programme, provide more information about the programme, and respond to their questions.

 I would also like to thank all teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this transition back into the classroom is smooth. And lastly, I would like to thank all of the health workers who have supported the Ministry of Education and Department of Education to complete the tests.

In closing, I remind you that vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19, and I encourage those who have concerns to talk to their health care provider and consider getting vaccinated.  However, until you do that, please keep safe by mask-wearing, physical distancing, hand sanitizing and staying home if you are sick.  

I have said it countless times, we all have a role to play in ensuring that our students are supported and prepared to be the shining stars of the future. Bermuda, let's all band together to get our children back to where they belong, inside our schools.

 

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