NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson said COVID testing of teachers and students is critical for a safe, full return to face-to-face learning.
“Whether you are going to use the hybrid model or the face-to-face model for everyday instruction, how do you get them back into school, into the classroom, in a safe manner?” Wilson asked.
“Those are our concerns. A safe manner for us means that you would have the opportunity for students and teachers to undergo COVID testing.
“We also would like to ensure that the schools are cleaned and sanitized and disinfected, and also that the support staff, specifically the janitorial staff, they would have had the correct training as to how to properly clean in a COVID environment…”
Wilson said she understands “one or two” janitors have been trained from each school, but opined that all custodial staff must receive the same training.
She also said the union hopes to see stringent temperature checks on campus; proper oversight and monitoring to ensure social distancing; barriers or Plexiglas for teachers’ desks; an outfitted sickbay for suspected infections; and established and practiced protocols for infection on campus.
Wilson said she understands resource constraints do not permit a nurse to be stationed in the over 170 schools spread across 27 islands.
However, she said there should be close communication with medical professionals in the event of an exposure or an outbreak.
“We are saying, it’s almost a year now — at least about 10 months — and there has been a lot of back-and-forth with the union and the ministry, but we are saying in order for us to return and to return safely, there are expectations that we have and we have not been made aware that schools are equipped and ready to receive students and teachers.”
She said teachers should also be provided with PPEs (personal protective equipment), particularly among lower grades where young students seek interaction with teachers such as hugs.
“We don’t just want the ministry to say that they are going to equip the schools,” she said.
“We want to ensure that prior to their return, we’re able to look at our checklist.
“I don’t think there is anything that we are requesting that is above the top.
“What we are asking for is basic and fundamental to our return, and our return to a safe, clean working and teaching environment.”