Preschools to reopen on July 16

Preschools to reopen on July 16
Preschooler engaging with teacher and students in the Virtual Preschool Classroom (FILE)

DEHS tells preschools to limit close contact with preschoolers and wear masks when interacting with kids

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — All pre-schools and day-care centers registered under the Early Childhood Care Act are permitted to re-open on July 16, advised the Ministry of Education yesterday.

In a statement, the ministry noted that between June 29 and July 5, those institutions will be permitted to open for sanitation and can begin registration on July 6.

Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd revealed during the budget debate earlier this month that the Ministry of Education has shut down a number of “so-called educational establishments” that were operating without legal authority and putting young children at risk.

While he did not name the facilities that were forced to close, the minister warned all operators of education services or those planning to do so to register with the National Accreditation and Equivalency Council of The Bahamas.

NAECOB is responsible for registering and accrediting primary schools, secondary and post-secondary schools, as well as any other institution that offers training in The Bahamas.

In Parliament, the minister said anyone who does not register with the council operators outside of the law for which there are serious penalties.

All registered pre-schools and day-care centers will receive new guidelines for operation that will be inclusive of measures provided by the Public Health Authorities and the Environmental Health Sanitation Guidelines.

Yesterday, the Department of Environmental Health Services released a reopening guidance document for preschools that outlines procedures for maintenance, custodial staff, classrooms, playgrounds, and school buses.

Schools are advised to have controlled access points, optional temperature checks, monitor any visible signs of sickness, and have everyone wear face masks when applicable.

The DEHS encouraged schools to erect signs about the protocols in highly visible places, install handwashing stations and hand sanitizers with 60 percent alcohol content throughout the premises.

In order to decrease the chance of a spread, preschools are to avoid overcrowding classrooms, where possible, classes should be held outside and teachers will be required to move between classrooms rather than preschoolers.

Teachers are advised to limit close contact with preschoolers as much as possible and wear a mask when interacting with preschoolers and colleagues.

Preschools are to discourage group gatherings on playgrounds, map out playgrounds indicating the number of preschoolers in an area at one time, stagger breaks where possible to discourage a large group out at the same time and clean and disinfect playground surfaces and items frequently touched.

Before opening their premises, early childhood institutions must conduct normal routine cleaning and disinfecting if they’ve been closed for more than seven days and must have all faculty checked as part of preventive measures.

They must have adequate cleaning supplies and PPE which must be worn by custodial staff when cleaning and disinfecting.

Maintenance and custodial staff must seek refresher training at DEHS or other approved training sites and teachers, administrators and staff must be briefed on the pandemic – including established health and safety protocols agreed by the school.

Additionally, teachers are being advised to creatively inform preschoolers on the matter and remind them daily about hand-washing protocols.

The DEHS indicated that all preschools should have a designated area to house sick students, should the need arise; and that area should be cleaned daily.