The most recent version of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information’s (MOEYI) Manual for the Reopening of Educational Institutions – Version 3, dated August 2021 – isn’t currently posted on the Ministry’s website. I have only been able to find Version 1, dated May 2020.
I am posting a copy here because I think it would be useful for people to take a look and see what the Ministry has set out as the conditions under which schools should reopen, particularly considering the resumption of in person classes.
I’ll just share a few of my thoughts as I looked at the manual:
- Overall there does not seem to be adequate attention paid to the airborne transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with more attention being paid to the sanitization of hands and surfaces, than to what is now known about aerosol transmission. I say this despite the section on masks.
- The distance recommended for children in schools – desks, seating, removal of masks in classroom, etc. – is 3 ft. This is mentioned in multiple places in the document; an example here on page 11:
Yet in a section on page 34 dealing with protocols for the administrative staff, the distance referred to is the familiar recommended 6 ft:
In other situations outside of schools, social distancing of 6 ft is required. Why is 3ft considered safe for children indoors in schools, given what is now known about the airborne nature of the virus and in the context of the more transmissible Delta variant? Even the 6ft distancing raises concerns in indoor spaces for extended periods, where ventilation is inadequate.
- Very little attention is paid in the manual to the issue of ventilation of classrooms and other spaces.
- The section on Management of the Sick (pp 9-11) starts by saying “Develop and implement mechanisms to monitor staff and students who may become ill”, but doesn’t set out specifically the mechanisms that are required.
- This bullet point on p. 9 deals with the requirement for an area to temporarily separate sick students and staff, which adheres to MOHW guidelines but doesn’t indicate where these guidelines are laid out.
This would seem to be a very important protocol to be specific about – how to deal with members of the school community who are ill, where there is the possibility that they may have Covid-19.
- There is also the issue of reporting where there are confirmed cases of Covid-19:
No definition is given of “a school wide outbreak”? How many cases would constitute a school wide outbreak? How would they need to be distributed across the school? Would you not need to report individual cases before an outbreak became school wide, perhaps to prevent it from becoming school wide? And this speaks about reporting to the MOHW and the education regional office, but what about reporting to the school community, to the parents/guardians so that they are alerted that their child may have been exposed and therefore other members of the family as well?
- There is no mention of testing protocols within schools, either on a routine basis or in the event of confirmed or suspected cases.
- The section on Transportation on page 16 says very little about public transportation and the risk it poses to children who use it going to and from school. The MOHW has pointed to public transportation as one of the serious spreaders of Covid-19 infections. What measures are being taken by MOEYI and MOHW in anticipation of the increased cases of Covid-19 that are likely to result with the increased use of public transportation by children? How is this risk being dealt with?
- Have the principals received the handbook about the use of Shadows, which is promised on page 19? Has a copy been made available to families whose children have Shadows?
These are some of the thoughts and questions that I have about the manual; there are others.
I am including below a copy of Version 1 of the Manual, dated May 2020.