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Schools Covid-19 restrictions loosened

A Saltus pupil wears a face mask in class as part of Covid-19 regulations (File photograph)

Schools can again welcome parents and hold assemblies for staff and pupils after Covid-19 precautions were eased yesterday.

A Ministry of Education spokeswoman confirmed that public schools had moved to Phase 3 of the Government’s Covid-19 system for schools and that the change meant that classroom closures were “unlikely”.

But a range of safety measures will remain in place for teachers, staff and pupils who will be expected to show “strict and consistent adherence” to the rules.

The Government’s Covid-19 phases for schools document said temperature checks were optional in Phase 3.

It added that parents and visitors were permitted in schools as long as they showed “no signs of illness” and showed a SafeKey certificate “hard copy to the school before entry”.

Children had to sit facing the same direction and at staggered intervals if they shared a long table over Phase 2.

Pupils will now be allowed to share “a round, long table or kidney table and they will be wearing their face masks”.

Preschool, primary and middle-school classes will still be in “bubbles”, but Phase 3 allows a year-level group of classes to form a “pod”, which can mix for some activities.

The Phase 3 rules added that assemblies could restart “ for the whole school”.

The document said: “Students and staff will wear face masks for the duration, with 3ft between each student, 6ft between each class bubble and good ventilation.

“The presenter/speaker will stand at least 10ft in front of the front row of students and remove his/her face mask.”

Children in the preschool and primary levels will be able to work together on activities such as puzzles and tasks with blocks.

The Phase 3 rules said: “Two class bubbles in the same year level can have outdoor PE classes together and equipment must be disinfected between uses.

“Hands must be washed/sanitised before and after class.”

The rules said that it was “advised” that Christmas plays should be held remotely, rather than the “remote only” stipulation for Phase 1 and 2, and that SafeKeys should be used for audiences.

Plays can also be held outdoors “with only student spectators, physically distanced and wearing face masks when moving around”.

The rules added: “An indoor event will include one class bubble at a time, with all students wearing face masks and no parent/supporting spectators.”

The latest phase allows sports days for one class bubble at a time but no spectators, unless they are children in the same bubble.

Field trips – not permitted in Phase 1 or 2 – “can resume with one class bubble per minibus, wearing face masks and practising good hand hygiene … ”.

The rules added: “Parents cannot accompany students and parent cars cannot be used to transport students from different households.”

School photographs can also be taken again, but must be done outdoors with one class bubble at a time.

Pupils and staff will have to wear face masks for group pictures.

The rules on mask use were unchanged from Phase 2.

Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said today: “We are pleased to see that the work undertaken to get our students back to a normal learning environment is progressing.

“School staff, principals, parents and students must be commended for their efforts in creating a safe learning community.”

He highlighted that the move to Phase 3 included changes to staff socialising, meetings.

• UPDATE: This article has been updated to include comments from the Minister of Education.

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Published December 09, 2021 at 3:36 pm (Updated December 09, 2021 at 3:36 pm)

Schools Covid-19 restrictions loosened

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