SINT MAARTEN (CAY HILL) - In preparation of the opening of its 2020-2021 school year on August 12, Learning Unlimited (LU) has produced a 30-page Hygiene Procedural Handbook for students, teachers and parents with the goal of balancing students’ educational needs within a safe, supportive environment for learning while providing important services to limit the virus that causes COVID-19. The handbook was sent to all parents last week.
In drafting this comprehensive handbook, LU utilized the recommendations of the Federal Institute for Health and Environment (Rijksinstituut voor Volksgezondheid en Milieu (RIVM) and “Sint Maarten’s Plan for Education Continuity- Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic” across the board. In addition, extra measures were implemented where such was deemed required. The RIVM has found that transmittance of COVID-19 by and among children is minimal. Nonetheless, LU’s directorate stressed that will uphold the highest standards it can provide to eliminate the risk of transmission as much as possible while still offering a safe and fun learning and work environment.
“We spent an inordinate amount of time preparing the school to re-open. The detailed handbook and policies we have created with the help of our task force and various consultants is available to be shared with any other schools on the island if they so desire,” Director of LU Daunesh Alcott said. While some of the ideas and recommended practices in the handbook we are going to do our best to adhere to may not all fit the needs of other schools, we are happy to assist and help any other educational institution out as best as we can.
“All they need to do is contact us, and we will be happy to help out in any way we reasonably can. I assume most every school is in various levels of preparation, and maybe some of the items in this handbook can help or spark a thought. We are in this Covid pandemic for the long-haul, I personally think. It is not going anywhere, so we are just going to have to all try and manage it the best way we all can, all the while not sacrificing the in-school education of kids. We cannot allow them to fall behind and lose another several months- or years- of education. That alone will be far more consequential than the virus fallout.”
The school will implement additional stringent measure where it deems necessary, but its current extra measures include:
- Required face masks from Grade 8 and up
- Where social distancing is applied, 2 meters distance is imposed instead of 1.5 meters (RIVM)
- Ventilation of the building wherever and whenever possible (dress code is revisited)
- Disinfectant tunnel for entry of the school premises
- Stop and drop/pickup procedures
- The introduction of a hybrid lesson model for those students who are required be educated from
- A COVID Management Team (CMT) has been formed. The CMT consists of Mr. Harold Raxlen (LU
School Board President), Dr. Pouneh Alcott (LU Founder and Executive Director), Ms. Amissa
President (Head of LU Primary School), Mr. Danny Fleming (Head of LU Middle and Upper School and Dean of Students) and Mr. Daunesh Alcott (LU Head of School). The CMT will monitor adherence to this handbook closely. Any incidents or suspicions are to be reported to members of the CMT. They will serve as your contact persons for anything COVID-related.
The hybrid plan
A hybrid option for students to continue their educational plan via distance learning with academic testing on-site will be available to those students who are unable to attend school. For instance students in risk categories, students who have been in contact with or live with a COVID-infected person or being infected him or herself, or students and/or parents/guardians who do not feel comfortable with in-class learning while the COVID threat remains, can apply. Any of these compelling reasons will be considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with LU.
Online learning will only be fully implemented in case of another island shutdown due to a state of emergency being declared. Online learning, however, is not the preferred method at LU.
“Online learning is generally not the solution for future education models anywhere involving students in their formative years through high school. Part of a successful school experience is developing the whole child. That involves positive and negative peer interactions, coping skills, dealing with rules and consequences, social problem solving skills, dealing with authority figures, learning valuable life-skills, etc. Just having academic skills will not prepare children for future endeavors in their later lives. I think that is pretty universally understood by parents and educators, alike,” Alcott said.
The disinfectant chamber
LU has installed a disinfectant chamber outside the main entrance. All students and staff must enter this chamber before entering the school building. Parents visiting the school (either to drop off or collect their children from Preschool, Pre-K or Kindergarten or on appointment) must enter this chamber too. This chamber will perform temperature checks, UV disinfectant light rays, disinfectant spray, and a hand sanitizing station.
A disinfection chamber is an enclosed facility similar to a telephone booth in size where users can efficiently complete disinfection and sanitizing procedures in around 40 seconds. This machine offers state of the art non-contact triple disinfection and sanitization to help prevent the spread of germs and viruses. The unit comes equipped with an infrared sensor automatic spray that deploys 360-degree ultrasonic atomization disinfection. Intelligent hands-free temperature measurement, high-temperature alarm, and a contactless automatic alcohol hand gel dispenser complete the sanitization process.
The disinfection chamber uses a hypochlorous disinfectant and it is EPA List N-approved. This product is 100% natural. It is harmless to people, animals, and the environment. The unit itself is a stainless-steel structure, corrosion-resistant, deformation-resistant and movable. Disinfection practices are important to reduce the potential for COVID-19 virus contamination in a school setting. As per the ECYS requirements, at least one staff member will supervise the entry to the school. Staff will be informed of this schedule separately.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the potential risk of exposure to its employees
before school reopens, the school will also be requiring employees to complete a detailed self-screening which includes a temperature reading and answering a set of questions related to COVID-19 symptoms.
Teachers will also be expected to perform daily temperature checks on themselves and all students. All screening information will be kept confidential by the LU Human Resource department. The school has a supply of rapid COVID-19 tests on hand to also supplement the teaching staff. LU staff is required to keep a daily logbook in which the names of all persons whom they came in close contact with, should be listed. This will help the school and CPS in their contact tracing in case of an outbreak.
The handbook also takes care to detail what each student must do in terms of hygiene once on school premises. There are instructions for in-class and out-of class activities, how to handle lockers ect. There will also be a staggered approach for arrival and departure from school with the various grade levels given specific times to arrive and leave to minimize the crowd and stagnation at both times.
The handbook also presents several annexes that outlines, among other things, what measures are to be immediately taken if an infected person is present at school (becomes aware at the school of their
COVID status), or the infected person was not transparent or honest about their positive COVID results, and/or that a suspected person is awaiting COVID results or becomes aware of positive COVID results at home
“I hope parents truly understand how hard all schools are working- public and private. This is a completely new phenomenon we are all dealing with. Teachers, administrators, and school boards on the island and the world over are being stretched to the limits and working much harder now, in general, than at any other time in their respective careers. While we do not know all the answers and can never guarantee anything, we will do our best to adapt and adjust accordingly to the new challenges that this virus seemingly poses to us all on a daily basis. I am pretty confident all schools are working diligently on countless guidance and recommendation and so much more to keep their communities as safe and secure as they can,” Alcott said.