Schools prep to open

Camps Bay High School staff getting ready for reopening next week.

Some pupils will be back at their desks on Monday June 1.

Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga, announced that Grade 7 and 12 pupils will be the first to return to school in a phased approach.

Schools across the country have been closed since March 18 as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Herzlia campuses, which were the first school to shut down in the province in March, is in the process of finalising its detailed reopening plan.

Executive director, Andries van Renssen, said they have decided that one grade per school building will open on Monday.

“All our schools have undergone deep cleaning in line with government regulations, masks have been ordered for all pupils and staff and are being issued free of charge. Staff are busy returning this week and are being trained on all the safety protocols and we are confident that we will be ready to accept our pupils back in the phased approach as described,” he said.

He added that safety posters and information have been printed and put up around the school, physical distancing markings on the floors are complete, sanitisers have been distributed and desks have been reduced to 15 desks per classroom with one child per desk. A detailed screening process is already in place at the entrances to all their campuses.

Schotschekloof Primary School staff members were back on Tuesday, May 26, a day after other schools because of the Eid celebration on Monday.

They started their orientation to get ready for next week.

Principal Faazil Kamish said the school has 65 Grade 7 pupils, normally in two classrooms.

“We’ve now split the classes into four classrooms, taking 16/17 per class,” he said.

He said the teachers in intermediate classes will assist the Grade 7 teachers with everything, including supervision, Covid-19 screenings every day and teaching.

He said the school has been cleaned and everything sanitised and they were now waiting for masks from the education department.

Mr Kamish said he’s received numerous calls from parents who told him that they would not be sending their children to school. “We have put a plan in place for those pupils or their parents to come and fetch their school work everyday. Whether that will work or not, I don’t know, but the school has put a plan for them and we’re ready for those who will be coming in on Monday,” he said.

At Camps Bay High School, principal Dave de Korte said they started with the cleansing and sanitising of their buildings on Monday.

He said the teachers were undergoing training this week.

“We’ve got a couple of days to prepare for the re-opening and training is under way and everything including the protocols have been explained to the staff,” he said.

He said screenings would be done everyday and the staff would also be responsible for cleaning their own office spaces.

“Parents can be assured that we will do everything we can to protect their children and we are ready to welcome them back. We know some parents are anxious but we want to assure them that the teachers love their pupils and we wouldn’t open the school if we were not ready,” he said.

Addressing the country on Tuesday last week, Ms Motshekga said the National Command Council (NCC) and the cabinet approved the reopening of schools.

She said the forced closure of schools to slow down the spread of the coronavirus was necessary and remained an important step that was taken to contain the virus as quickly as possible and save lives.

“We are confident that the reopening of schools across provinces will happen as outlined in the protocol that has been developed. The reports we got are showing that preparations have been taking place and good progress has been made. All indications are that the preconditions for the reopening of schools will be met, obviously with the premium being on saving lives,” she said.

She said the delivery of Covid-19 essentials such as sanitisers and masks was being done in all provinces to ensure children’s safety and every school must adhere and observe the health and safety protocols that will be put in place.

Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the department was facing an unprecedented challenge which could not have been anticipated – with no blueprint.

“There is much anxiety among all sectors of our population, which is understandable given the nature of the coronavirus,” she said.

“Some people are also struggling to understand that on the one hand, they have been told to stay home and isolate themselves from society, yet now they are being told to go to schools, or send their children to school. The experts have told us that the virus cannot be stopped, only slowed down, and many people will be infected. That is not something we like to hear, but it is an unfortunate reality. Children are missing out on important parts of the curriculum which can affect the rest of their schooling and their future earning capacity,” she said.

“We cannot keep schools closed indefinitely. So, taking into account all the risks, and the best medical advice available, we have been making plans for the re-opening of schools.”

To prepare for the opening of schools, the WCED has provided schools with hygiene packs including masks for staff and pupils, non-contact thermometers to help screen pupils and staff; schools have been cleaned with bleach, and they have engaged with schools about remote learning for pupils with illnesses and staff with co-morbidities.

To maintain physical distancing classes will be divided to adhere to the required 1.5m between pupils.

“The difficulty arises when more grades return to school, and space becomes a problem. One of the key tasks of our returning senior management teams is to develop plans to teach in a new way, whilst the appropriate physical distance is maintained.

“We have no intention of relaxing the physical distancing requirement at schools. When this maximum number is exceeded in the phased return, we are currently determining which option will be implemented – be it grades attending class on alternate days, the use of school halls as classrooms, or any of the many helpful proposals we have received from officials and the public alike. But we will not reduce or remove the physical distancing requirement,” said Ms Schäfer.

The curriculum has also been trimmed to ensure that the essential concepts required for progression to the next grade are taught. Matrics will, however, progress as normal with catch-up plans to be implemented and school transport service providers must ensure that the necessary sanitation measures are adhered to.