The Guyana government says students returning to classes at the President’s College from Monday will be housed in the school’s dormitories under strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Education Minister Priya Manickchand said this would ensure the safety and wellbeing of the estimated 290 returning students.
Addressing parents at the Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara School, she said the ministry would, with parents’ permission, test and quarantine each student to ensure they are not carriers of the virus.
“The reality is that if we test a large enough number, some people will have a positive result because you are coming from all over this country that has positive cases and so they will be tested and quarantined for a bit,” Manickchand said.
Alternatively, parents could choose to have their children attend the school closest to them.
“We are not going to be coming after anyone in any truancy campaign to lock you up or charge you to inquire why you did not send your children. The choice is up to you; we feel that we have to provide the option for parents and students who cannot access education through Zoom, internet or any other option but … you do not have to do this,” Manickchand said.
Several measures have been taken to keep both teachers and students safe through the installation of sinks with running water, distribution of care packages which include masks and shield, vitamins and sanitisers.
Markings were also set out to keep students at least six feet apart. This will allow 15 to 20 or even 20 to 25 students in a class depending on its size. The school also received an $18 million allocation to boost its internet connectivity and to print worksheets.
Personnel from the Region Four Regional Democratic Council will also do daily check-ups at the school.
Health Minister Dr. Frank Anthony, told the parents that the students would be subjected to PCR tests to be administered by a medical team stationed at the school and that the results will be available on Monday and those who test positive would be isolated.
“We want to do that in a very safe environment, and when we mean safe, we want to ensure that all of the things that we do here, especially for those in the dorms, that they follow all of the protocols that we have in place to ensure that they remain safe,” Anthony said.
The Health Minister said that the students would have to observe the protocols in place, including wearing masks, sanitising their hands and social distancing.
As it relates to a positive case, those who live nearby will be given the option to be isolated at home and will be provided with medical supplies.
Meanwhile, persons from the outlying regions will be catered for at the Government’s isolation facilities at the Diamond Diagnostic Centre or the Infectious Diseases Hospital at Liliendaal. Special spaces will be set up at those facilities for the children to receive instruction.
On October 31, the Education Minister announced that schools would reopen for classroom instruction for Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate, Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination and Technical, Vocational Education and Training (TVET) institutions.
Since then, there have been numerous multi-stakeholder engagements with the Ministry of Health, Health Ministry, regional education officials, the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC), the Guyana Teachers Union, parents, students and other parties.