Minister of Education, Diallo Rabain confirmed that three of the island’s 36 public schools have reopened their classrooms.

Updating the public on the plans to transition our public schools from remote learning to in-person instruction, he also said 21 of the schools had received more than the 80 percent parental consent for saliva testing needed to reopen.

Speaking at a news conference held on Friday, he added: “These schools have either completed or are being scheduled for their pre-return testing.

I want to take this time to congratulate these schools, especially Southampton Preschool, which returned to in-person learning yesterday, and St Paul’s Preschool and Lagoon Preschool, which returned to in-class learning today (Oct 8).

Gilbert Institute was scheduled to reopen yesterday but the date was pushed back to Monday to allow time for additional cleaning.

Port Royal Primary and West Pembroke Primary are also expected to reopen on Monday.

Victor Scott Preschool, East End Primary, Purvis Primary, Prospect Primary and Success Academy  may reopen next week.

These were Dellwood Middle School, Elliot Primary, Heron Bay Primary, Lyceum Preschool, Northlands Primary, St David’s Primary, St George’s Prep, St George’s Preschool, Victor Scott Primary and Warwick Preschool have crossed the 80 percent threshold as well.

“These schools will be scheduled for PCR pre-return testing, and parents and guardians can expect to receive notification of the location, dates and time to meet,” said Mr Rabain.

“We hope to see more parents give consent and more schools opening in the coming weeks.

“It is critical that we reopen our schools for in-person learning and keep them open. The screening programme is critical for this.”

Highlights of the Minister’s full statement: 

Since the previous update, there have been 7 Pre-Schools, 12 Primary schools, 1 middle school and 1 alternative school that have reached over 80 percent Parent consent.  These schools have either completed or are being scheduled for the Pre-Return testing. 

I want to take this time to congratulate these schools, especially Southampton Pre-School, that returned to in-person classes yesterday and St. Paul’s Pre-School and Lagoon Park Pre-School, which returned to in-person classes today. 

I want to pause for a minute to thank the parents and guardians of all the students that have given their consent for the Saliva Screening Program to support their school in meeting the target for re-opening. We hope to see more parents give consent and more schools re-opening in the upcoming weeks. It is critical that we re-open our schools for in-person learning and keep them open.  The Screening program is critical to doing this, and I encourage any parent or guardians who have not consented to reconsider and do so.

 I am also pleased to report that we have ten (10) more schools which have reached consent for 80% or more of their students to participate in the Saliva Screening Programme. These schools are:

1.      Dellwood Middle School

2.      Elliot Primary

3.      Heron Bay Primary

4.      Lyceum Pre-school

5.      Northlands Primary

6.      St. David’s Primary

7.      St. George’s Preparatory

8.      St. George’s Pre-school

9.      Victor Scott Primary

10.    Warwick Preschool

 We have received questions about the need to hold Pre-Return testing and have been challenged with authority to require a negative test before being allowed to return to school.  Parents and guardians, I reiterate that we all need to do what is best for the safety of our entire school population.  It is a given that knowing your COVID status before returning to school is something all of us should want to know.  Our stance is firm and is supported by the Education Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act.  A negative test is required to return to school, and failure to produce such will result in your child receiving take-home packets until a negative PCR test is received.

I am also pleased to report that the Ministry and Department of Education met with the Ministry and Department of Health this morning.  The current COVID Guidelines for schools were discussed as we look to make modifications to keep our school safe and open for learning.  Additionally, we discussed the quarantine policy around positive detection within a school and the use of Lateral Flow testing to supplement the current Saliva COVID Screening Program.  We all agree that positive cases will be found as we grapple with the pandemic, but a more nuanced approach to quarantining for positive students needs to be developed. It is the desire not to have to quarantine an entire class if a positive case is detected in that class. More updates will be forthcoming on the enhanced policies in the near future.

The Department of Education will hold online meetings in the upcoming weeks to listen to parent concerns about the COVID Screening Programme, provide more information about the programme, and respond to their questions.

 I would also like to thank all teachers and support staff who have worked tirelessly to ensure that this transition back into the classroom is smooth. And lastly, I would like to thank all of the health workers who have supported the Ministry of Education and Department of Education to complete the tests.

In closing, I remind you that vaccination remains the best protection against COVID-19, and I encourage those who have concerns to talk to their health care provider and consider getting vaccinated.  However, until you do that, please keep safe by mask-wearing, physical distancing, hand sanitizing and staying home if you are sick.  

I have said it countless times, we all have a role to play in ensuring that our students are supported and prepared to be the shining stars of the future. Bermuda, let’s all band together to get our children back to where they belong, inside our schools.