In Jamaica the MoEYI has adapted the Framework for the Reopening of Schools developed by UNESCO, UNICEF, the World Bank and the World Food Programme (April 2020). The framework provides for three phases.
- Phase 1- the phase prior to school re-opening
- Phase 2 – partial or phased reopening
- Phase 3 – all institutions reopened.
The period prior to the physical reopening of education institutions is to be used to prepare all key stakeholders and the school plant. In the preparatory phase, the MoEYI will communicate and consult with all key stakeholders in order to assess the readiness of the system for reopening while coordinating all critical preparatory activities. Consideration will therefore be given to: –
- Policy e.g. readmission policies, requirements and procedures
- Communication – implementation of a public education campaign designed to prepare key stakeholders for the reopening of educational institutions
- Finance – the provision of resources in public schools and provide oversight of in independent schools to facilitate the deep cleaning of plants and the provision of wash stations, cleaning agents and other resources needed to ensure that the school environment is kept sanitized
- Infrastructure – ensuring that all the necessary measures needed to maintain safe school operations within established physical distancing guidelines are implemented
- Human Resources – carefully examining staffing needs to ensure an adequate supply of- teachers to facilitate both online and face-to-face teaching; and – ancillary and other support staff needed to ensure that the various sanitation exercises before, during and after school are carried out
- Teaching and Learning – examination of the curriculum to determine what adaptations or adjustments to subject offerings will be required, determining the modalities which will be used to facilitate teaching and learning including assessment
- Staff Health and wellness – strategies needed to protect teachers with underlying health conditions, providing support for the mental health and socio-emotional support of all members of staff.
- Students’ Health and Wellness – strategies needed to ensure the health and wellness of all students, safe transportation of students to and from school, providing a safety net for children who may be in violent or abusive situations and home and providing mental and other psycho social support to ensure students are able to function effectively in the school environment.
- Managing School Operations – strategies to be employed by Administrators in alignment with standards and guidelines developed by the MoEYI and approved by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to effectively manage the day to day operations of the school.
- Inclusivity – ensuring that special care is taken to address groups with special needs including equity in access to ICT-based learning, the provision of assistance as needed to all students can be seamlessly integrated into their learning environment and facilitating greater parental involvement in activities of the school since they may have much more information to impart regarding the educational needs of their children.
Critical to the safe reopening of education institutions will be the ability of the MoEYI and Administrators of educational institutions to ensure that behavioural changes required to reduce the spread of COVID-19 can be effectively implemented in the daily practices of staff and students. According to CARPHA (2020), and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, the following practices willneed to be strictly adhered to:
- physical/social distancing (specifically, staying 6 feet away from others when you must go into a shared space)
- frequent washing hands or use of alcohol-based (at least 62 – 70% alcohol) hand sanitizers when hands are not visibly soiled and soap and water are not available
- respiratory hygiene
- wearing clean cloth face masks. Ministry of Health and Wellness mask etiquette must be observed
- voiding the touching of eyes, nose, and mouth
- staying home when sick
- robust sanitization practices including the cleaning and disinfecting of frequently touched objects and surfaces.
In the phase prior to school re-opening, it is recommended that a “Rapid Response Survey” for each school (including community leaders, teachers, students and parents) is conducted, to obtain contextual data that can guide re-opening (UNICEF, 2020). Decision makers must then assess how learning and wellbeing can best be supported in each context. Survey to include:
- Unique Epidemiological profile of COVID-19 in that locality, including community related risk factors (e.g. presence of community COVID-19 clusters, low water settings, likelihood of community violence etc.)
- Profile of vulnerabilities in each school (comorbidities, disabilities, social support recipients) including for teachers, administrators and support staff
- Dimensions of each class for social distancing considerations
- Staff capacity for teaching, supervision during non-academic activities
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.Analyzing the context-specific benefits and risks enables prioritization of schools (or components of schools) for reopening; prioritization of risk mitigation measures within schools and communities; and areas of focus for remote learning. Based on this assessment, (a) Not all schools need open at the same time, whether partially or fully. (b) Not all students or staff need report to school on the re-opening day(s).