At home schooling after Covid-19 surge
Public schools will hold remote lessons when children go back to school on Thursday in the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases.
The ruling was made after a meeting of the Education Emergency Measures Committee (EEMC) today.
Diallo Rabain, the education minister, said: “The Epidemiology Surveillance Unit has advised that there are a number of staff and students who have tested positive for the coronavirus or who are close contacts of others who have tested positive.
“Due to several schools being impacted by these exposures and the requirements to quarantine, staffing levels have been reduced in many of our schools.”
Mr Rabain said that there were 119 staff absent today across 31 schools.
He added: “The majority of the staff absences are due to staff having to quarantine as a result of coronavirus developments, while others are absent due to medical or sick leave. The number of absences are projected to increase in the days to come.”
Government has now been forced to change its policy on school safety measures twice in the space of five days.
Last Wednesday Mr Rabain said that Phase 3 safety measures – including mandatory mask wearing in class for most pupils – would be enforced at the start of the new term.
But on Thursday he announced that tougher measures under Phase 2 were required because the island’s transmission status had moved from “sporadic cases” to “clusters of cases”.
Today Mr Rabain said: “It is imperative that learning is not interrupted for our students and thus we move forward with remote learning aligned with the originally scheduled resumption of school.
“School leaders will provide parents and guardians with details of the remote learning programme.
“The safety and health of our staff and students is paramount and this decision is necessary to protect their best interests, along with Bermuda as a whole.
“To prepare for a safe return to in-person learning, we are strongly encouraging all staff and students to get tested between September 9 and 12. Testing sites will be arranged, and further information will be announced as soon as possible.”
He said a decision on whether students will have to remain at home next week has yet to be made.
An e-mail to parents from the ministry said: “The EEMC met to discuss the safest way forward for staff and students given the number of positive Covid-19 cases, including an increase in the number of children testing positive.
“With school staff members and students among the positive cases, several schools have been impacted by the surge in positive cases, resulting in reduced staffing levels due to quarantine requirements.
“This decision has been made in the interests of the safety and health of all Bermuda public school system staff and students.”
The e-mail appealed to pupils to get tested this week “as part of preparations for a safe return to in-person learning”.
The message said: ”Testing sites will be arranged and further information will be announced as soon as possible.
“It is expected that further communication will advise of openings the week of September 13.”