COVID-19 infections have been reported at the Fyzabad Anglican Secondary School and St Anthony’s College in Diego Martin.
A source who requested anonymity yesterday said the Form Five student of Fyzabad Anglican Secondary fell ill in late October.
Ten days later, a school staff member also began experiencing flu-like symptoms and was sent for testing but the matter was never made public.
In a letter sent to Guardian Media, a source at Fyzabad Anglican Secondary said administrators were taking advantage of teachers and abusing their authority by withholding the information.
“The administration has operated as though it was safe for staff and students to return to school as normal the next day. The nurse indicated that there was only one primary contact despite the student mingling at school during lunchtimes without mask and social distancing and the fact that there were teachers who taught for 55 minutes. Many other students interacted with the said student. Proper screening was not done, as only the student was consulted,” the source said.
There was also secrecy about the identity of the staffer who was said to have flu-like symptoms and the COVID test results have never been disclosed officially to the staff.
“Teachers are being told that they cannot know who the person is. So then how are teachers to protect themselves, their families, know when or if to get tested? How are students who are “careless and carefree” in their interactions to know that if they exhibit any symptoms it is because they are exposed? This decision not to inform stakeholders is affecting individuals and families,” the source said.
The Ministry of Education has been informed, along with the Ministry of Health, about developments at Fyzabad Anglican Secondary but there was no decision taken to stop physical classes until late last week.
“Principals have no say in whether the classes can go online, only the SS3 can dictate this,” the source added.
The source said other schools have handled COVID cases differently, noting that the ministry should outline a comprehensive policy to deal with how situations are handled at school.
“The current policy leaves teachers “naked” to fend for themselves, resulting in staff being blackmailed to stay away from school by taking leave. The students and parents are even more helpless, as they are not informed at all and cannot take decisions to mitigate the situation due to this lack of information,” the source added.
Cleaners at the Fyzabad Anglican Secondary School have also complained about the lack of information.
“Many are not wearing the proper PPE to engage in sanitisation, as it is not provided for them. Cleaners are not aware of how to sanitise critical highly-touched surfaces such as doorknobs or areas under the desks or chairs that are held by multiple persons. Sanitisation is not occurring at some institutions before or after classes or during periods. Teachers are not being informed of whether classes are sanitised or not. They are simply going in to teach in sometimes an unclean and unsanitised class,” the source added.
Meanwhile, at St Anthony’s College, a circular was issued indicating that a staffer was COVID-19-positive. Students were urged to continue following COVID protocols.
The staff member last reported for classes on November 8. Several students are currently in quarantine but are said to be COVID-free. The school continues to be sanitised daily both before and during lunch breaks.
Over 10 schools in T&T have reported COVID-19 infections since physical classes resumed on October 4.
Among the schools with suspected or positive cases were Shiva Boys’ Hindu College, Princes Town East Secondary, Iere High School, Mason Hall Secondary School, Tobago, St Augustine Girls’ High School, Bishop Anstey High School East & Trinity College East (BATCE) and Signal Hill Secondary School.