Schools reopen amid confusion

Principal Clive Arries at the physical distance posts where pupils will stand before they enter the rest of the school to make their way to the classrooms.

Forty-one out of 160 Grade 7 pupils at West End Primary School in Lentegeur returned to school on Monday June 1 as part of the Department of Basic Education’s phased in approach to reopening schools amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

This follows a lot of confusion over the weekend, with the reopening date postponed to Monday June 8 by Angie Motshekga, the Minister of Basic Education, while the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) declared that the province was ready to receive Grade 7 and Grade 12 pupils on June 1.

On Monday, West End Primary’s Grade 7 pupils were divided into eight classes. The pupils had orientation about the virus and how they will be going about their school day in a new way.

Teachers returned to school on Monday May 25 to prepare the school grounds for the return of pupils.

Ms Motshekga said pupils would officially return to school on June 8 as some schools were not ready to receive pupils and needed more time to prepare for their safe return. During a media briefing on Tuesday May 19 Ms Motshekga said if parents wished to keep their children at home they needed to apply for homeschooling instead.

The examination period for pupils will be in December instead of June this year, she said.

As of 1pm yesterday, Tuesday June 2, Mitchell’s Plain had 2 141 of the Western Cape’s 23 0965 Covid-19 cases. The number of schools with confirmed staff cases in the province was 32 and the number of confirmed staff cases was 37.

Education MEC Debbie Shäfer released a statement on Friday May 29 on the WCED website, saying parents and staff had the right to know about any positive Covid-19 cases at schools and that schools constantly had to keep everyone informed about Covid-19.

Ms Shäfer said the number of schools with confirmed staff cases did not mean they contracted the virus at school, nor did it mean that the school was at risk.

“In many of the cases, the staff member has not even returned to school since schools reopened as they fell ill before returning,” she said.

The WCED has issued clear guidelines to schools on how to manage confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19, as well as the preventative screening measures all schools must implement daily, she said.

Clive Arries, West End Primary principal, founding member of the Progressive Principals’ Association, and chairperson of the District Principals’ Forum, advised for distance learning instead of homeschooling.

They are working closely with parents and pupils who chose to stay at home during this time, creating workbooks they need to work from while at home. Sixty percent of pupils are at home, he said.

He said parents and caregivers had to provide a reason for the pupils staying at home and most of them live in households with people who have comorbidities, he said.

He said there were strict regulations to screen everyone who enters the school. If teachers show symptoms of the virus, they will be sent home and they need to be tested for Covid-19.

“Teachers are sharing the load, during this time. Everyone is hands on deck.

“It is very important that we are embracing a positive public opinion that establishes confidence in our parents in our community. I am advocating that all pupils return to school. This is trial and error time, we’re preparing and planning for anything that may arise in future,” he said.

Imperial Primary School in Beacon Valley released a statement to parents and posted on social media on Friday May 29, informing that two of their staff had tested positive for Covid-19.

All staff members were screened on Tuesday May 26, when the two staff members showed symptoms and were advised to get tested for Covid-19. The rest of the staff also went for Covid-19 testing.

Their Grade 7 pupils were to return to school on Monday June 1 but this had to be postponed.

The process of having the school decontaminated will start today, Wednesday June 3, in partnership with WCED Safer Schools and approval sent by them. They will let the parents and pupils know when to return to school, said principal Colin Baron.

Bernice Lambert, principal of Agapé School for Cerebral Palsied Children in Tafelsig, said they were fully prepared to receive pupils back to school on Monday June 1.

However, only a few of them returned on Monday with the school bus that the majority of the pupils make use of.

Md Lambert confirmed that no positive Covid-19 cases have occurred at their school. They make sure that pupils and staff wear masks and practise physical distancing.

They are the only school of its kind in the Metro South education district, she said.

“We’ve been ready to receive our Grade 7 pupils. We, however, continue to work on ways to assist the next grades to return to school in the future,” she said.