Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said the union is not confident that the Ministry of Education has implemented the necessary COVID-19 safety precautions for Tuesday’s roll out of face-to-face learning in public schools, and said that teachers are prepared to leave the classroom if those precautions are not in place.
In-person learning resumes on Tuesday for public schools on New Providence, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera.
However, Wilson said if the union’s shop stewards are not comfortable with their inspection of government school facilities on Tuesday, teachers would be prepared to leave the classroom.
“We’re not confident at all because what has been shared with us is just the general protocol from the Ministry of Health (MOH), which we keep saying to MOE, you should use the MOH’s guideline but have specific protocols for education,” she said.
“So, the BUT, we’ve gone out front and we have a checklist that every shop steward in The Bahamas actually has, and they will use the checklist to ensure that the health and safety protocols are in place to make sure that the equipment and materials and hand sanitizers and PPEs (personal protective equipment) and that the schools are clean.
“If not, then the teachers would have a meeting to decide whether they will remain in the schools that are not ready.”
When asked for clarification, Wilson said, “We have a clause in our agreement that speaks to health and safety in the schools and we will invoke that entitlement if the schools are not prepared.”
According to Wilson, there are some schools still under repair and will not be ready in time for Tuesday’s reopening date.
“So far, there are 11 that are not opening face-to-face in New Providence because school repairs are incomplete or have not yet begun.”
Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd has scheduled a press conference for this afternoon that will detail the reopening of those public schools.
In a statement over the weekend, the ministry said while many schools will open on Tuesday, some schools will begin at a later date. Each school will inform parents and guardians of their respective reopening date.
To help prevent a spread of COVID-19 in schools, MOE has asked that parents and guardians ensure students’ body temperature is below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, that they’re monitored for possible COVID-19-related symptoms like fever and shortness of breath and that every child has a face mask and personal hand sanitizer if available.
The statement read, “If these symptoms present for students or staff members, or if either a student or staff member has had close contact with a person diagnosed with COVID-19, they are required to remain at home and to seek the appropriate medical advice.”
However, Wilson said the MOE has not done enough to instill confidence in teachers that the environment would be safe enough for teachers and students to return.
“We are not certain as to whether or not schools are prepared for the safety protocols, especially pertaining to COVID-19,” Wilson said.
“The inspection will happen on Tuesday morning when teachers return to work and students are supposed to return to school. That check is to make sure there is signage, there are markers for the three and six feet distancing, that there is a sick bay, that there are enough thermometers for temperature checks and several other items to make sure that the schools are ready for students and teachers.”