Chief Education Officer Dr Ramona Archer-Bradshaw has denied claims of COVID-19 outbreaks at schools across the country.
However, she has confirmed that the Blackman and Gollop Primary School has moved away from a blended approach to full in-person learning, using three-feet physical distancing protocols.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY on Tuesday, Archer-Bradshaw declared that investigations by the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training and the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit found that there was enough space on the compound for all students to return.
“To the best of my knowledge, all of the schools in Barbados under the Ministry are following the protocols as outlined in the roadmap,” said the Chief Education Officer.
“It was confirmed by the principal, by the education officers at the ministry in relation to Blackman and Gollop as well as the COVID-19 Monitoring Unit. The three feet distance is, in fact, practical in that environment and that is the reason that all of the children from Blackman and Gollop can now attend school. So we are not breaching any protocols,” Archer-Bradshaw added.
Less than 24 hours before, president of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman said some teachers at the Staple Grove, Christ Church institution expressed concerned about the change.
Redman warned that with cases in Barbados, particularly among school-aged children climbing daily, deviations from previously established protocols would do more harm than good.
Barbados TODAY also received reports of an outbreak of COVID-19 at the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary, which Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) president Rudy Lovell said was receiving the union’s attention.
Sources at a section of the school being housed at Belleville, St Michael said at least three of the 12 teachers and two security guards attached to the school tested positive for the virus. Barbados TODAY also learned that at least four other teachers were awaiting test results, prompting calls for the school to be temporarily closed.
But Dr Archer-Bradshaw said the Ministry of Health and Wellness would continue to guide education officials on operations at school when cases are detected.
“I spoke to the Ministry of Health and they are not aware of any outbreak at our schools. There are cases, however, at various schools,” she said.
“At the particular school – Wilkie Cumberbatch at the Belleville site – we have some cases there. But as you know, that is expected because you have more cases in the community and those persons come from the community and bring the COVID-19 into the schools. But the good thing is that if the protocols are followed, the likelihood of transmission is very low,” added the chief.
Dr Archer-Bradshaw added that contrary to some suggestions, the Ministry of Education had taken no decision to keep schools open regardless of the extent of virus spread.
“The Ministry is placing in the forefront the safety of our students, our teachers, and our supporting staff. So, if we are guided by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to close a school because there is a spread, we will do so and if there is a spread within a school, we will let the public know. There is nothing to hide,” she maintained.
“With respect to any of the sites, if you see a closure at any of the sites, it would mean that that was the advice from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, or it may be a case where there are a number of teachers out and therefore not enough manpower to provide for the children who are there. But it does not necessarily mean that there is a spread at the school,” the education chief added. [email protected]