JTA calls for ‘safety tags’ for schools

THE Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) is disappointed that the Ministry of Health and Wellness has not yet provided an official update to the nation on the status of secondary schools — which have been reopened to prepare students for regional exit exams in July — in relation to public health.

JTA President Owen Speid is suggesting that the ministry assess institutions and designate them according to health safety levels.

“We believe it is not the best thing to have had schools reopened and the Ministry of Health didn’t make a public statement to the nation as to how ready the schools were… At this time we would want to recommend that the Ministry of Health goes through these secondary schools and put something like a safety tag, to say this school is marked safe for return, so that there is no question about it,” he explained.

Speid was speaking with the Jamaica Observer on Monday against the background of last week’s reopening of secondary schools to facilitate students who will be sitting Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) papers next month.

Speid said the JTA was particularly concerned about a media report on the weekend that 17 schools in St Catherine had been found lacking in the required health safety protocols. He pointed out that the figure represents 70 per cent of schools in St Catherine and is, therefore, of serious concern to the JTA.

Despite the concern, he said the JTA gave passing grades to the secondary institutions it toured last week for having the proper sanitisation facilities and for execution of the mandated health safety protocols.

He said most systems were in order at the nine schools the JTA team visited in the Corporate Area

“We could give them a passing grade at least, [and] some of them were excellent,” he said.

Speid said, too, that the JTA team also visited schools in St Ann, and that the majority of the health safety requirements were in place at those institutions as well.

However, he said the JTA is still calling on the Government to suspend the virtual learning protocol prior to the planned, full reopening of schools in September, in order to undertake logistics and management planning.

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