All secondary schools will be reopened for face-to-face instruction from Monday, October 4, the Cabinet has decided. However, only vaccinated teachers and vaccinated students between the ages of 12 and 18 will be allowed to attend.
Director of Education Clare Browne and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Rhonda Sealy-Thomas reportedly met with the Cabinet on Wednesday, September 29, to discuss the policy governing the opening of schools and to provide advice.
Following those consultations, the Cabinet decided that teachers, ancillary staff, and students who have received at least one dose of any two-dose vaccine are to return to the classroom.
However, the schools will be reopened on a phased basis, as determined by the Ministry of Education.
A concerned mother tells REAL News she takes no comfort in this decision by the Government since it appears there will be no preliminary testing.
“Everybody knows that vaccination can’t stop you from getting infected. How do they know these students and teachers don’t have COVID already?” she asks.
She believes that, with this announcement, scores of students will rush to be vaccinated by this weekend, so they can attend classes on Monday. However, she points out that the vaccine takes 14 days to become effective.
Accordingly, she says she is reluctant to send her child out to school, but she is not sure whether online classes will continue for those at home.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet Notes say, “all primary schools will close immediately, despite the Regulations which allowed for them to open on the condition that all teachers and staff are vaccinated.”
An opening date has not yet been determined; but the decision will be examined again in two weeks, the Notes add.
This decision to keep the primary schools closed reportedly is based on the number of unvaccinated people and COVID-19 infected persons in the wider population.
It is feared that students younger than 12 years may come into contact with infected persons and, in turn, transmit the infection to the classroom.
At present, these children are not eligible to receive any of the available vaccines. Therefore, remote learning is to continue for the primary schools – public and private institutions – the Government says.
Another working mother is put out by this decision. She wants to know who will look after her primary-school daughter at home when her older child returns to in-class instruction from Monday.
“They don’t think these things through,” the woman tells REAL News, explaining that she and her husband have to work. “The people in the Ministry don’t consult with anybody?” she asks.
Meanwhile, the Antigua & Barbuda Union of Teachers announced an extraordinary general meeting for this afternoon, September 30, at 3:30 p.m.
Down for discussion were matters arising from the Government’s vaccination mandate for public-sector workers, which, last week, the Union rejected.