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Jump in Covid-19 cases sparks Saltus move to SafeKey for staff

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Saltus Grammar School, Pembroke (File photograph)

A private school is to adopt the SafeKey system for staff and visitors after a jump in Covid-19 cases, the head teacher said yesterday.

Deryn Lavell, head of school at Saltus Grammar School, said in a letter to parents that the step was taken to ensure pupils safety after two staff members tested positive for the coronavirus.

The news came as Warwick Academy shut its senior school after two pupils – one in Year 10 and the other in Year 13 – tested positive for the virus.

Ms Lavell wrote to Saltus parents: “We will of course, continue to follow the Government requirements for Covid-19 but the board and management deem this extra step vital to help keep our students safe and our school open.”

She added: “The Government does not mandate vaccinations for schools, however, we have a high rate of immunisation among our staff and we continue to strongly urge all staff who are able to get vaccinated.

“The vaccine is our best shield against this virus, and while we cannot mandate it in our school, we are taking stronger precautions to ensure the health and safety of our community.

“To that end, the board of trustees and I have met this week and effective immediately, we will be requiring a valid SafeKey for all our employees, vendors, necessary visitors to the school and paraprofessionals who work with our students.”

The school warned parents last week that the Saltus middle and senior schools would not resume face-to-face teaching this week after 41 staff had a potential exposure to Covid-19 at a training week.

School buildings have since had a deep clean and the school’s Cavendish and upper primary departments were able to open as scheduled.

Ms Lavell said: “The individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 did not know they were ill.

“As soon as they found out we took immediate action, contacted the Department of Health and provided a full risk assessment to them so they could begin contact tracing.”

She added: “I am glad to report that all of the tests have come back negative for our staff who are quarantining.

“As per protocol, they require further testing and clearance before they are permitted to return to work.”

Ms Lavell added the school would “work tirelessly” to ensure that learning could continue safely.

She said: “We are working closely with the Department of Health so that our middle and senior students and staff can return to campus as soon as possible.”

Warwick Academy has told parents that the school would move the secondary school department to remote learning today after the positive tests were revealed.

The notice said: “The two students have not been in school since last week and the protocols we have been following in terms of cleaning and mitigation have been robust.”

The notice added close contacts of the infected pair were being investigated.

David Horan, the Warwick Academy principal, declined to comment on whether the school had considered the introduction of SafeKey.

Mr Horan said: “Warwick Academy continues to evaluate a range of measures to mitigate risk and keep students in physical school and therefore we are not in a position to comment specifically on SafeKey at this time.”

A spokeswoman for Mount Saint Agnes said the school did not have a SafeKey policy in place for staff, but the school in full compliance with the Department of Health’s protocols.

She added that the school had developed and maintained “robust guidelines” to ensure safety for teachers and pupils.

The spokeswoman said: “This includes, but is certainly not limited to, participation by our staff in the ongoing on-site testing programme provided by the Ministry of Health, physical distancing, a rigorous schedule of cleaning and sanitising and the use of face masks.

“We continue to monitor the situation and will adjust our protocols as necessary, always guided by our commitment to keeping our MSA family safe and healthy.”

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said last night: “As we have seen, the landscape of what is happening in individual schools and across the system can change within a matter of hours.

“When we last reported about staff absences, we were at 119 absences – however, there were 130 absences yesterday.

“Given the country’s current status, numbers are changing overnight, especially since the absences are combined with those that are not related to quarantining due to Covid-19 exposure.”

Mr Rabain said the Government hoped to open some educational centres, such as preschools, next week for face-to-face learning.

He added: “We are still engaged in discussions and reviewing data for schools at other levels to determine when they can open.

“However, we know that students who attend Dalton E Tucker and Purvis Primary Schools will continue with remote learning for all of next week, along with the students at Dellwood Middle School.”

Telecoms firm Digicel also announced it would move to kerbside pick-up at its Hamilton store to make sure staff and customers could maintain social distancing.

Sakinah Brangman, Digicel’s retail manager, said the move would not affect the company’s day-to-day operations.

She added customers could also use the firm’s online order forms.

Some churches also announced they would revert to online services only to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

David Steele, the pastor at the Wesley Methodist Church in Hamilton, said: “In an abundance of caution, we are joining our brothers and sisters at Ebenezer Church in moving to online services effective immediately.

“This will continue for the entire month of September. With the current wave of cases on the Island we want to do our part in trying to control the spread of this current wave of Covid and protect our congregation.

Mr Steele said services would be posted online on Saturday mornings at the church’s YouTube page here.

Mr Steele said that the public health situation would be reviewed later this month and that it was hoped to resume live services at the start of next month.

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Published September 10, 2021 at 10:30 am (Updated September 10, 2021 at 10:30 am)

Jump in Covid-19 cases sparks Saltus move to SafeKey for staff

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