Plans to reopen public schools can be successful if prevention measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 are in place, an infectious disease expert said yesterday.
Michael Ashton, Chief of Medicine at the Bermuda Hospitals Board, said: “The prevailing strategy of social-distancing, physical-distancing, hand hygiene, masking — if those are adhered to, then I think we will be successful.”
Dr Ashton said that children were not immune to the potentially deadly coronavirus.
However, he added: “The inflammatory process that has been reported in the news elsewhere in the world has not been seen in Bermuda.”
Dr Ashton said his position was guided by talks with island paediatricians who were monitoring the situation closely.
He was speaking at a press conference yesterday ahead of the island moving to Phase 2 of the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions today.
Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, said that schools were still set to reopen in Phase 3. Mr Rabain reminded the public that the time span of the phases would vary based on how strictly residents adhered to guidance from the health ministry.
He added that a plan to reopen schools had been developed which included four phases: planning, preparation of school buildings, transitioning pupils and staff back, and the start of a “hybrid learning model — teaching and learning for staff and students who are both in school and at home”.
Mr Rabain said that physical-distancing and “the use of many safety and health protocols” would be required when schools were given the go ahead to reopen by the health ministry.
He admitted that concerns had been raised by parents over a survey they had been asked to take to gauge their stance on sending their children back to the classroom.
Mr Rabain explained: “Collecting preliminary data from the parents is part of the planning process for the eventual reopening of schools. While we do not know when we have to be ready, our quick survey was intended to get a sense of the thoughts, concerns and perceptions of public school families.
“This data will assist with planning for the number of students who will occupy school buildings. The responses also let us know what information needs to be communicated.”
Mr Rabain said all schools had been inspected and deep cleaned, and that custodians were working three times a week to clean and ventilate buildings.
The minister added that safety audits would be conducted before any school was allowed to reopen.
Mr Rabain said that an educational support programme, announced by David Burt, the Premier, would start on Monday at CedarBridge Academy, in Prospect.
The programme, for primary and middle school pupils, will be open only to children of parents who must return to work as part of Phase 2.
Mr Rabain said the programme welcome preschool-aged children starting next Wednesday. He added that interested parents should contact their child’s principal.
• To view the education minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”