Yet another primary school has been closed after one of its Standard Five pupils was exposed to the Covid-19 virus.
Principal of St Augustine South Government Primary School (SASGPS) Carlene Duncan advised teachers on Tuesday evening that a pupil of the school was exposed to a contact of a Covid-19-positive patient.
In a letter to teachers, Duncan said she was contacted on the matter by the county medical officer of health of St George East, Dr Osafo Fraser.
“Given the risk the student may have posed to the school population, they have recommended that we close school temporarily, pending clearance from the Ministry of Education. Moreover, as per protocol, we would have to quarantine. However, he (Fraser) said that they do not know enough and he could not say for how long,” she advised teachers.
SASGPS is the third primary school to be shut down in one week due to Covid-19.
On Friday, Maraval Roman Catholic School was shut down after one of its Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) pupils tested positive for the virus.
And this week, Tacarigua Presbyterian School was closed after it was realised that one of its SEA pupils was a primary contact of the 43-year-old delivery driver who tested positive for Covid-19 this week.
Health officials reported on Monday that the man experienced symptoms of the virus for six days and mingled with co-workers and family members before going to the Arima Hospital to be tested.
TTUTA: Stop SEA classes
Despite these closures, the Ministry of Education indicated after a meeting with education stakeholders on Monday that the August 20 date for the SEA exam will not change.
During the meeting, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) recommended that SEA preparation classes be suspended due to the increase in Covid-19 cases.
The Ministry of Education said a decision on this will be made next Monday.
In a media release yesterday, TTUTA reiterated its call for classes to be discontinued.
“The apparent resurgence of cases poses an escalation of risk to the students, teachers and principals engaged in the SEA 2020 preparation,” TTUTA said.
“The association is mindful of the trepidation already experienced by Standard Five students, their parents and teachers because of the high-stakes exam, scheduled for August 20, 2020. We assert that the current increase of infections and the fact that two schools have closed because of positive cases further adds to the anxiety,” TTUTA said.
“TTUTA takes no pleasure in reminding all stakeholders that we were against the rush to have pupils sit SEA because of the possible health risks involved. We are therefore calling on the Ministry of Education to discontinue SEA preparation classes until the spread of Covid-19 in T&T is brought under greater control,” the association added.
Ministry: Schools adhering to protocols
However, in a media release yesterday, the Ministry of Education assured that all primary schools which are facilitating SEA preparation classes are strictly adhering to health and safety protocols.
“Assurance is being given to the general population that schools have implemented thermal scanning, handwashing, the wearing of masks and social distancing. The ministry affirms that in any school where there is deemed the possibility of risk to the health and safety of students, all necessary steps will be taken,” the ministry said.
“With the resumption of classes on July 20, teachers and parents have already expressed the change in attitudes, performance and mindset of students upon return to the physical classroom. The psychological benefits of students being able to prepare for the SEA in a simulated physical space has been reported to have many positive benefits for students,” the ministry added.
The ministry went on to urge the public to fact-check and be extremely cautious when sharing information surrounding the positive cases of Covid-19.
“While stakeholders attempt to take all precautions to safeguard children, misinformation is being shared about children being positive for Covid-19 in schools. Such information is even being printed in daily newspapers as editorials, which can cause mass panic and concern if citizens are not accurately informed,” it said.