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Schools: “Remote Learning Until Further Notice”

“All public schools are continuing with remote learning until further notice,” the Ministry of Education said this evening, adding that “we will return to in-person learning once it is safe to do so and the data supports it.”

This statement comes at the end of a week that has been, by far, the worst week since the pandemic began, with the highest active cases, most cases in one day, most people in hospital, most people in ICU, the hospital moving to the highest “Disaster Alert Level” for first time, and most sadly, the most deaths in one week, with seven deaths announced since Monday.

The Minister of Education Diallo Rabain said, “Undeniably, the in-person classroom is the best place for teaching and learning. As we strive to keep our staff and students safe amidst our country’s current status, everyone, the Department of Education, our Educators and Parents/Guardians, must work together to create an environment safe enough to have our staff and students return to school.”

“We will return to in-person learning once it is safe to do so and the data supports it. Each school will be assessed individually, and the data that we are looking at includes the percentage of students consenting for the Saliva Screening Programme, coronavirus testing results, and staffing availability.”

“65% Of Our Students Across Schools Who Have Consented To The Saliva Screening Programme”

“Currently, we have 65% of our students across schools who have consented to the Saliva Screening Programme. We need this percentage to drastically increase so that we can identify early risks in schools, quickly isolate them, and minimise outbreaks.

“The Saliva Screening Programme is an additional safety measure to keep our schools open while ensuring our staff and students’ safety. Parents and guardians, if you have not already done so, please sign up to give your consent here: https://bit.ly/Saliva_Screening_Consent. Four primary schools have exceeded 80% of students consenting to regular testing, and those will be the first primary schools scheduled for testing to enable the return to in-person learning.”

“To the parents and guardians who have given consent, we thank you. If you are interested in seeing how the samples are collected, watch here: https://bit.ly/Saliva_Screening.”

Minister Rabain added, “Our last update advised that Covid-19 testing was arranged for staff and students of all Government Preschools, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, and Success Academy Robert’s Avenue.

“Only 33% Of Students And 69% Of Staff From These Schools Participated In The Testing”

“The results of those tests have been received from the Molecular Diagnostics Lab [MDL] and analysed. While the results were negative for all those who tested, unfortunately, only 33% of students and 69% of staff from these schools participated in the testing that was offered. The low level of participation, especially amongst students, requires us to have further discussions to determine the safest possible way to return these schools to in-person learning.

“It is important to note that while we want our schools to return to in-person learning, if we do not have high enough levels of testing participation it is difficult to ascertain the safety of doing so given the current level of spread of the coronavirus. We have to be careful to balance opening schools with the safety and health of our students and staff.”

“To the staff, parents, and guardians of Preschools, Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, and Success Academy Robert’s Avenue, that did test, we thank you for working with us in support of the safety of our staff and students.

“Will Arrange A Testing Schedule For Other Public Schools”

“The Department of Education and the MDL will arrange a testing schedule for other public schools. Once the tests have been scheduled, staff, parents, and guardians will be contacted by their respective schools with further details. Until testing has been scheduled, we encourage staff, parents, guardians, and students to wait rather than visiting a public testing site. As a reminder, each school will be assessed individually based on the percentage of saliva screening consent, results of testing and availability of staff.”

Covid-19 Exposures At 12 Public & Private Schools

Minister Rabain concluded, “We have been informed that the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit (ESU) has identified Covid-19 exposures at Bermuda Institute, Saltus Grammar School, Warwick Academy, MSA (Mount Saint Agnes Academy), BHS (Bermuda High School), Somersfield Academy, Dalton E. Tucker, Dellwood Middle, Francis Patton Primary, Purvis Primary, Port Royal and Prospect Preschool.

“The person(s) who tested positive for the coronavirus have been isolated, and the ESU contacted confirmed close contacts. The person(s) were advised that they must quarantine (stay home from school and other activities) and given dates to get tested for Covid-19 again on or after Day 10 or 14 depending on their vaccination status. Testing is required, and all appointments are confirmed through the Ministry of Health’s School Surveillance Team. The tests must be nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal.”