… summer break in August 

Yangchen C Rinzin 

Teachers who volunteered as De-suups should test before reporting to schools and all schools used for Covid-19 purposes have to be vacated, cleaned and disinfected at least 72 hours before re-opening.

These are some of the requirements that the health ministry placed and advocated in a three-day virtual training for school authorities for schools safety.

With just four days left to reopen schools, dzongkhag education officers from across the country, heads of 609 public and private schools were trained on the health safety to ensure schools take every measure to protect students.

The participants also included schools’ health coordinators and Covid-19 focal persons.

Education ministry’s nutrition division chief Karma Wangchuk said that such training was necessary to ensure that school administrations are trained adequately on the safety measures needed in schools.

Many parents have recently expressed concerns on sending their children to school given the risks of exposure to the virus.

“Of many measures, such training would give parents some confidence that schools are well prepared to welcome their children and ensure the safety of students,” he added. “The guidelines on safety have also been shared with schools.”

The National Covid-19 Taskforce reviewed the standard operating procedures and heightened surveillance. Random sampling and testing of teachers and students once every fortnight. However, this would be based on the risk assessment of the location.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering interacted with participants on the final day of training on January 27.

He reminded principals to monitor the quality of masks and informed that the government would also explore possibilities to supply washable masks to schools.

“While we understand people’s concern about reopening schools, we cannot lose one more academic year,” lyonchhen said.

Apart from normal protocols like washing hands, wearing a face mask, using a sanitiser, using Druk Trace App and maintaining physical distance, the health ministry has advised schools to avoid large gatherings like morning assembly, evening prayers, fete days or school concerts.

Given that each class has more than 30 students, many principals shared concerns about maintaining physical distance.

Principals were advised to stagger the classes or conduct them in shifts if possible. Some schools have already put in these measures, but many schools are faced with a dearth of teachers and infrastructure already.

In such cases, schools have been asked to explore a system of having different timing for different classes to enter the campus, or have 2-3 entry points to discourage crowds, and De-suups would also be deployed if a school is at high risk.

With physical distance impossible in the class, school administrations were asked to stress wearing face mask at all times, discourage sharing utensils or stationery, and ensure well-ventilated classrooms.

Principals were also briefed on the course of action should a child exhibit flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, the education ministry scheduled the two-week summer vacation for this academic year from August 1.