The staggered return to the classroom of 137 masked Form 5 students adhering to six-foot distancing protocols “is working well” at the St Andrew’s Anglican Secondary School (SAASS), according to principal Dianne Abel-Jeffrey.
Speaking to The Grenadian Voice on Monday (June 15), the principal of one of the country’s largest secondary schools, with a staff of 69 including 45 teachers, Abel-Jeffrey said plenty of planning went into the return of students in the limited space.
When the Ministry of Education announced to the nation on May 27 that the gradual reopening of schools would begin on June 01, with Form 5 students and teachers back in the classroom on June 08, new scheduling arrangements and training sessions became part of the new normal.
Preparations included training by Ministry of Health officials for caretakers and cleaners who learned that it is not enough to just clean, and not sanitise properly.
“Cleaning and sanitising is so important, I would like to see this training continue,” Abel-Jeffrey said. Additional cleaners have been contracted by the Ministry for sanitising washrooms, railings and other areas throughout the day.
Cleaners are stationed at the entrance of student washrooms to ensure physical distancing and that the sinks and toilets are sanitised after each use.
Abel-Jeffrey said all Form 5 students returned to school with masks. Some brought their own sanitisers although the school has sanitisers, as the COVID-19 regulations stipulate that the hands of students and staff members are sanitised upon entering the school’s compound.
“There is a gate for entry of students to the school and another gate for exit. So, students coming in for a later session during the day will not encounter those who have completed their sessions and are leaving. Much care is being taken to ensure that no unnecessary interaction takes place among the students,” she said.
Sanitisation liquid is available in every room used for classes.
The regulations stipulate principals should create a timetable that reflects “staggered arrival and departure times for students to reduce chances of crowding. More specifically, students are to arrive at school in accordance with the established schedule, and depart promptly from the compound once classes are dismissed.”
Doing that for 137 students required adjustments and consultation with teachers. Fortunately, not all 137 students are taking all the subjects; with the exception of English. The first session of the day is the busiest with fewer students scheduled in the afternoon sessions. Abel-Jeffrey assigned two “holding rooms” to accommodate students waiting between sessions.
Form 5 students returned to the classroom on June 08 in anticipation of sitting the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examination.
Scheduling of classes had to ensure the students will be ready to sit the CSEC exam July 13 to 30. The scheduling also had to ensure students will be ready for their oral exams on July 01 and 03, Abel-Jeffrey added.
There are four sessions scheduled each day with breaks after each session to allow for sanitisation of the rooms. This also allows for students to be refreshed and prevents a crowd build-up at the tuck shop, since students can access the tuck shop at different times.
The tuck shop provides healthy snacks and lunches for students who do not carry packed lunches or snacks from home.
There have been challenges for the principal and staff. Six-foot distancing in the classroom meant some classes cannot be held in one sitting, and have been divided into cohorts.
“Our school has only two areas that can accommodate the opening of screens, and single classrooms and labs can accommodate no more than 16 students.
Some of the technical labs can only hold six to eight students. That is a limitation that had to be managed and overcome,” she said.
More teachers return to school this week to complete end-of-year reports for students and the start of online registration of new students.