MOE advises on phased reopening of schools


In Belize, it has now been over a year since schools were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and both students and teachers have had to adjust to online and distance learning. There is no doubt that that transition has been difficult for all parties involved, parents included, and people have been holding their breaths for an end date. Well it now seems that the Ministry of Education has some information which might appease all involved. According to the Ministry, there will be a phased reopening of schools after the Easter break. So come April 12, the date set for the start of the reopening, life will return to normal for some students and their teachers.
A meeting of the cabinet on March 23 approved the Ministry’s plan for the resumption of face-to-face learning at all levels. Important to note is that the approved date will not encompass all schools, only those whose administration feel that they are prepared for the safe reopening. Likewise, they will need to meet the requirements as set out by MOE and will require application at the Ministry for approval. For schools which are unprepared for the reopening for April 12, they can do so by May 10, just over a month before the end of the 2020-2021 school year. Still, schools that do not meet the requirements by that date will be expected to develop some form of face-to-face learning by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry, Dian Maheia, explained that while schools will be allowed to reopen, they will be expected to do so safely and practically. For example, school administrators at all levels cannot expect that their entire population will be allowed within the school at the same time. Maheia says that one possibility that the Ministry has since entertained is scheduled or shifted class times over the course of a school week. This will require some revision and work on the part of the administration but is necessary to ensure that students and teachers are as safe as possible.
That safety must be priority, obviously, and can be a point of concern for all those involved. For the better part of a month, the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) has been engaged in the vaccination of the over 18 population. We are currently in phase two of the process which includes teachers, but just like every other group, it is not mandatory that they be vaccinated. MOHW simply encourages all persons who can receive the vaccine to do so.