In preparation for its general student population’s return to campus for face-to-face learning in the COVID-19 era, St. Augustine’s College (SAC) officials have taken their screening protocols beyond temperature checks, sanitization and one-direction traffic, opting to install fencing around its entire campus with a two-fold purpose in mind – stop people using the campus as an access way to either Bernard Road or Prince Charles Drive, and ensure students and faculty have specific entry and exit access points to the campus to ensure everyone has their temperature checked daily.
There are now three entry/exit access points.
SAC has added 540 feet of fencing in addition to the 580 feet of pre-existing fencing that was already in place and surrounded the school’s campus, by the street closer to Fox Hill – the basketball court and physical education area. The fence is six-feet high.
“For decades, SAC’s campus was so open, and people have used the school as a pathway to get from Bernard Road to Prince Charles [Drive] and the surrounding areas. One of the reasons for the fence is to secure the campus in terms of classrooms,” said William Johnson, SAC’s physical plant manager.
The second reason for the fence, he said, is to assist with the institution’s new COVID-19 protocols.
Without the newly installed fence and designated access points, Johnson said, it would have been almost impossible to ensure everyone went through the safety protocol checks.
“When school reopens, it will be almost impossible to make [sure] that [temperature checks] happen without chaos, because there are so many drop-off points. The fence will force students to enter at specific entry points,” said Johnson.
Taunya Chase, mother of a 10th grade SAC student, said she is happy with the fence installation.
“I am more satisfied as it increases safety for my daughter, as many are able to walk through the campus. I feel it keeps the kids confined in a good way, so as not to stray out of boundaries,” said Chase.
“Unlike many schools, SAC has two entrances and exits, making it difficult to secure,” said Joanna Bain, social studies teacher. “Prior to the fence, anybody could walk onto the campus from nearby bushes and potentially put those on campus at risk.”
Bain, a 1995 graduate of the institution, said the newly installed fence makes it less difficult to keep students safe.
Sharmara Curry, a recent graduate on campus who is writing her Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education (BGCSE) examinations, said she felt restricted by the fence at first, but that it grew on her. She said its presence makes her feel more secure, because with the fence, people can’t escape the temperature checks.
In ensuring they shore up all avenues of COVID-19 protocols, Johnson said the school has also instituted temperature checks for people entering the cafeteria in the morning before the school day starts. He said tables that previously sat eight people will now only seat four people.
The indoor cafeteria has 27 tables. Going forward, only four people will be allowed at each table for a maximum of 108 people utilizing the indoor setting, in addition to the cafeteria staff.
The physical plant manager said they are also looking into construction of a second cabana for students to sit under during lunch periods.
The current outdoor cabana has 15 tables that can seat four people, for a maximum of 60 people in the space.
In the COVID-19 era, Johnson said, the size of their campus means they can maintain their student enrolment, social distance and still have 25 students in each classroom. The school has also installed plexiglass in all of its computer labs and in the library, to limit contact.
SAC has also placed social distancing markers on the pavement in front of classrooms where students often hang out. With one-way walking traffic instituted, and to help pedestrians keep left on the main sidewalk between classrooms, a yellow paint stripe runs down the middle of the walk.
“We’ve been spending quite a lot of money trying to meet the protocols established by the Ministry of Health… Fencing, sanitization of the compound, [installing] hand sanitization stations, striping and signage,” said Johnson. “With the cooperation of students, and assistance from teachers and parents, St. Augustine’s College’s campus will remain safe.”
SAC reopened on September 21 with the online instruction platform.