Principals in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) have been told that each school should “develop protocols for ill teachers, staff and students” amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as possible, ill persons should be separated from the school population while undergoing or awaiting assessment,” the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment said, on Wednesday, in a document entitled “Key points to guide the reopening of schools”
Schools in SVG should have reopened last week Monday after the Easter break.
However, classes were suspended for a further two weeks because of the novel coronavirus, 13 cases of which have been confirmed in SVG.
In a Facebook post this week, Minister of Health, Senator Luke Browne said that school would remain closed for an additional two weeks.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said a thermometer (preferably non-contact) should be used for objectively evaluating body temperature.
It also advised that a process for promptly informing parents/guardians and health care officials should be established.
The ministry also told principals that flexible attendance and sick leave policies should be introduced for both students and teachers alike.
“This will allow for sick persons to remain at home and for caregivers to provide care for ill family members,” the ministry said.
The document, however, said school attendance should be monitored for frequent absence among staff and students due to illness.
“The Ministry of Health should be informed about increased absenteeism due to respiratory illness.”
In the event of school disruption, school authorities should work with vulnerable students to ensure continuation of their needs (school feeding, counselling, etc.).
Principals were also called upon to promote and teach proper and regular hand washing to students.
They were advised to do this by:
- Ensuring soap and clean running water is always available;
- Installing additional water fountains/hand washing stations to adequately meet the needs of the school population;
- Encouraging frequent hand washing for staff and students;
- Placing hand sanitizers at entrances and exits, hallways, classrooms and staff rooms;
- Ensuring toilet facilities are kept clean throughout the school day.
The Ministry of Health said that school building must be cleaned and disinfected each day.
“Particular attention should be paid to doors, railings, toilets/bathrooms and frequently touched surfaces such as lunch tables, desks, chairs, windows, teaching aides, etc.,” the document said.
It said that cleaning should be done with 0.5% hypochlorite solution and 70% ethanol for small surface areas.
Principals were also called upon to post signage to encourage hand and respiratory hygiene.
Schools are to ensure solid waste is removed daily and open windows to encourage increased air flow where possible.
As part of the promotion of physical distancing measures, principals were told to:
- Cancel assemblies, PTA and staff meetings, sports, games and other events that encourage mass gatherings;
- Stagger the beginning and ending of the school day;
- Stagger the times for break and lunch;
- Where possible, ensure work stations (classrooms, staffrooms, labs), for students and teachers, are at least three feet apart;
- Where possible, reduce the number of persons on the school compound at any given time;
- Encourage non students and teachers not to be present on the school premises unless absolutely necessary;
- Where possible school provisions should be delivered outside of school hours;
- Avoid teaching methods that require group work or gatherings of any sort.
The health ministry also said principals should conduct sensitisation for both teachers and students alike, regarding the spread and consequences of COVID-19 with clearly defined pathways to counselling where necessary.