New Covid guidelines give schools ‘increased flexibility’ to implement own policies
Schools will be given “increased flexibility” to implement their own Covid-19 policies under relaxed guidelines for the coming academic year.
The Ministry of Education recently sent out its Living Safely with Covid guidelines and requirements to public and private schools which emphasised the need for in-person learning.
The only requirements are for staff and children to stay at home if they experience Covid-19 symptoms and for staff and students who have tested positive for Covid-19 to isolate until they produce a negative test result.
The guidelines encourage individual schools to maintain a test-to-stay programme where staff and students who are close contacts of positive Covid-19 cases are required to participate as a condition of attendance.
Participants would be required to test daily for seven days and report results to the school. Close contacts are encouraged to wear masks at all times.
While masks are encouraged for staff and students, they are not mandatory. Physical distancing is encouraged as much as possible.
Vaccinated and unvaccinated staff and students will be able to return to school immediately after travel on the condition they have obtained a certified negative Covid-19 test result as a requirement of returning to the island.
All staff and students arriving in Bermuda after travel must follow the requirements of the Department of Health: https://www.gov.bm/coronavirustravellers-residents
Staff and students who have symptoms for other infectious diseases such as the flu or a respiratory virus must stay at home until they are no longer infectious.
If students become sick while on campus, they must leave the premises. Isolation and sick rooms are to be made available for students to stay in until they are collected or arrangements are made for them to leave.
The Ministry of Education said in its national guidelines: “In-person learning is the aim of all schools; therefore, the Ministry of Education invites schools, parents and caregivers to work together to help reduce the spread of Covid-19 in schools.
“Although Covid-19 regulations have been relaxed, Covid-19 is still within our community.
“The Department of Education and private schools now have increased flexibility for their Covid-19 policies and procedures. Therefore, they can introduce enhanced guidelines, policies and practices appropriate to their system and school environments as required.
“However, the Department of Education, public and private schools are still subject to the Public Health Act 1949, and the Department of Health Guidance on Infection Control, Exclusion and Reporting of Health Events in Schools, Nurseries, and other Childcare Settings in order to reduce the spread of infectious diseases in school settings.
“The Department of Education and public and private schools also have obligations under the Occupational and Safety Health Act 1982, to ensure safe and healthy work environments for students, staff, and visitors.
“Preventive measures are needed to keep our school buildings safe and protect learning for young people as we continue to live with Covid-19. These guidelines and requirements are subject to change.”
Fever 100.4F or chills
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Muscle or body aches
New loss of taste or smell
Congestion or runny nose
Nausea or vomiting
Schools are being encouraged to apply the guidelines when holding school events for which they are able to develop further Covid-19 policies.
Parent-led child advocate group Us for Them Bermuda welcomed the latest news saying the relaxation of Covid-19 rules in schools was a step in the right direction.
A spokeswoman said: “Us For Them Bermuda is pleased to see in-person education being prioritised.
“While we advocate against the continued recommendation of masking or any test-to-stay policies, it is a positive step in the right direction to get our children back to learning free of restrictions.
“As we move forward, it is important to reflect on the detrimental impact these policies have had on our children's mental health, stability and overall learning these past two years.
“We must return our focus to providing the best educational and restriction-free experience possible.”
Jane Vickers, director of development at Warwick Academy, said the school had decided to introduce a policy for staff and students to conduct an at-home lateral flow test before their first day back after the summer break.
Ms Vickers said: “As in the past, if they haven’t uploaded their results we will give them a test at reception desk and ask them to do it.”
Saltus sent out a note to parents welcoming the increased flexibility for schools. It said “As always, the health and safety of our employees and students at Saltus is our number one priority.
“We will continue to remain vigilant but are pleased to share that we will begin the new year with more flexibility and will resume school activities and gatherings with minimal health and safety restrictions.”
Saltus has decided not to implement the test-to-stay policy for close contacts but said: “However, we will continue to monitor closely our Covid-related absenteeism. We will communicate with parents if the test-to-stay programme needs to be resumed.“