Talks between officials in the Ministry of Health and their counterparts in education about the resumption of face-to-face classes early next year are progressing steadily, with only two of the schools commissioned as isolation centres during the height of the country’s third wave of COVID-19 remaining in use.
However, Barbados TODAY has learned that stakeholders are yet to receive a definitive plan for the reopening of schools after meetings with officials from the Ministry of Education.
During a press conference on Thursday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) The Most Honourable Dr. Kenneth George revealed that his officers are working to secure the start of in-person classes “at some stage”.
The CMO declared: “They continue to work with the Ministry of Health and we give some direction with respect to this. As you are aware, we currently only have two school-based facilities that are operational as isolation centres. Operations at the Queen’s College have been wound down and we are trying to wind down operations at Lester Vaughn with the view of seeing what are the potential areas that other schools may be involved in.”
“So the two schools that are operational at the moment are Lester Vaughan and Blackman and Gollop, and we are working with a staggered and a slow approach to make sure that those schools are returned to the Ministry of Education once the situation permits.
“Using the facilities at schools has really been a good move because it gave us the opportunity to expand to allow persons who are not as critical to be managed in those environments. But we also realise that this cannot be a long-term plan and the intention is to return to the Ministry of Education in a really timely manner,” the CMO added.
Barbados TODAY understands that discussions on the resumption of school occurred last week between key education stakeholders and the ministry of education, but no plan was put on the table and there were no definitive timelines for the resumption of school.
Earlier this month, both the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) called for a careful approach to the matter. In fact, the BSTU declared that too many variables still existed which were beyond the control of the Ministry of Education including the prevalence of variants of concern and low student vaccine rates.
Meanwhile, Director of the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit, Ronald Chapman explained that much of the decision-making regarding schools would depend heavily on how the country’s virus situation progresses over the holiday season.
For now, he explained that many of the current restrictions on gathering would remain, as he urged citizens not to “put Christmas over our own health” and continue to seek testing and treatment for COVID-19.
“We are hoping and we are working with the Ministry of Education. We are looking at the possibility of opening schools next year and other things that we are working with and this is important to the community. We need to be able to hold it down, for people to follow the protocols and do what is right so we can slowly but surely reopen the economy,” Chapman added.