Private schools’ appeals answered

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(Pointe Xpress)

Government is moving swiftly to make changes to the health protocols that will come into effect when students return to the classroom on September 7.

Information Minister, Melford Nicholas, said the move comes as concerns have been expressed that the protocols, in their current state, could severely threaten the survivability of many private schools.

The operators of these schools have petitioned the government to consider making adjustments to its requirement to maintain 6 feet of distance between students as this will drastically reduce the number of students their institutions can enroll which would spell financial trouble.

This is one of several adjustments that will be made to the regulations governing the return to school in the new academic year.

The decision to arrive at a compromise on the concerns follows discussions between the Cabinet and high ranking education officials who have recommended that the space requirement be reduced from six feet to three feet.

“The need to move that portion of the regulations comes from many of these secondary schools who, like the bus operators, must have a critical number to justify the teachers and the facilities.

So if the numbers are too sparse it would mean that the private schools would not be financially viable so there were requests for consideration, even with social distancing, that there be some variation of the scale,” Nicholas disclosed.

The current regulations do not allow for those changes to take place, therefore the government is moving to amend that aspect of the regulations.

Minister Nicholas stated that three feet of distance that will be approved is in accordance with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) guidelines that allow for a minimum of three feet of social distancing.

Another amendment that is expected to be made to the regulations in time for the start of the school year on 7th September is one which requires that any person younger than 18 years be accompanied by an adult when on the streets.

Masks will continue to be compulsory as will hand washing. Sanitization of desks, chairs, handles and bathrooms will also to be enforced.

All other protocols will also be observed in order to protect teachers and students from infection by COVID-19.

The announcement that the six feet of social distance will be reduced in schools has prompted questions about whether this will be introduced nationally.

“Many businesses may say what about us? If we are running a restaurant we may want to have greater seating as well.

I do not want to jump the gun and get ahead of those conversations, but it is something we may have to come back to but for now, the focus is on getting the schools reopened,” Minister Nicholas declared.