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Public schools to stay shut after increase in Covid-19 cases

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education. (File photograph)

Public schools are to remain off-limits until further notice after a surge in Covid-19 cases, it was confirmed this weekend.

The news came after the Government announced last week that schools would return to remote learning for the first week of term, which started last Friday.

But a spokeswoman for the education ministry confirmed that virtual classes would continue at most schools for the foreseeable future.

The announcement represented an about-turn in Government policy.

The Government pledged last week that schools would be open to pupils at the start of the new term, with minimal safety precautions.

But an increase in Covid-19 cases in the last week – including reports of outbreaks at some schools – forced education authorities to backtrack.

The Government, however, said it wanted to open public preschools and specialist schools as soon as possible and tests for pupils had been arranged for today.

The Ministry of Education said the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy and Success Academy, both in Devonshire were expected to open their doors alongside the preschools.

All the schools will operate on a remote basis in the meantime and tests will be carried out between 10am and 3pm today.

Staff and students will be contacted by their schools with further instructions.

The tests used will be the saliva and cheek swab type.

A spokeswoman said: “The dates that these schools will open will depend on the results of these tests.”

But officials added remote learning would continue at other public schools until further notice.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said he understood that working parents may be upset by the decision.

But he added: “We have to weigh the needs of working parents against keeping thousands of students and staff safe across our schools.

“When we consider it from this perspective, we have to act responsibly and take measures to keep students and staff safe.”

The spokeswoman said: “This decision is based on the status of the island, the number of positive Covid-19 cases that are being reported, the directive from the Department of Health that all schools public and private must go into Phase 1, effective immediately, the frequency with which school staff has to test and quarantine and the projected needs for substitutes to cover them.”

The spokeswoman added that the delay in returning to in-person classes would give the ministry time to offer testing for staff and pupils to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spread.

She said: “We are still awaiting confirmation information from the Molecular Diagnostic Lab and Department of Health on a testing schedule.

“We will be able to use the test results, along with other data to make decisions about which schools can open for in-person learning when able and which will need to continue with remote learning.”

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Published September 13, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated September 13, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Public schools to stay shut after increase in Covid-19 cases

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