Wed | Oct 28, 2020

Schools brand faces as Oct 5 resumption looms

Published:Saturday | September 19, 2020 | 12:14 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
A high-school student wears a cloth face mask at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre on Wednesday, March 11, a day after the first coronavirus case was recorded in Jamaica. Some administrators have ordered that students only wear branded masks to school.
A high-school student wears a cloth face mask at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre on Wednesday, March 11, a day after the first coronavirus case was recorded in Jamaica. Some administrators have ordered that students only wear branded masks to school.

Face masks will be compulsory accessories when school reopens in October, but already students are taking issue that some administrators have made it mandatory for them to wear branded protection.

The matter was highlighted by president of the Association of Principals and Vice-Principals, Linton Weir, in a Gleaner Editors’ Forum on Thursday.

But Weir insists that despite the complaints, branded masks are to ensure uniformity in schools.

A phased reopening of schools will commence as scheduled on October 5, a government-appointed E-COVID Management Task Force disclosed on Friday, adding that a risk profile will be developed. Resumption is likely to see a mixture of online and in-person classes.

The ministry said that a vulnerability index will centre on factors such as geoinformatics, and demographic and health data.

Education Minister Fayval Williams said that funds had been allocated to schools since June for the new academic year and pledged to revisit additional requests related to COVID-19 protocols.

More than $4 billion has been allocated to public schools, with secondary institutions gobbling up the lion’s share of $3.4 billion.

COVID-19 cases have spiked in Jamaica since mid-August with community spread in full force. There have been 55 coronavirus deaths and 4,571 infections locally.

As the threat lingers, parents will be required to provide masks for their children to attend face-to-face classes. Weir said that having them purchase branded cloth masks might be more cost effective since these are reusable.

“They are able to wash them, they are able to iron them, that sort of a thing,” he said.

Weir was responding to a concern that surgical masks were better options for students because they allow them to breathe easier.

“The surgical mask is a single use that is going to attract a lot of costs,” said Weir, who is the principal of Old Harbour High School.

The principal said that teachers will be asked to allow students to remove their masks periodically for a breather.

“It is going to be very very important for our teachers and our students to work together where we are going to have that time slot where we are going to be saying to our teachers and our students, you can now remove [your masks],” he said.

Principal of Ardenne High, Nadine Molloy, said that although branded masks are sold at the school for $500, students will not be mandated to wear them exclusively.

She, too, said that students will be allowed to take off the masks occasionally.

“Right now, when I am in my office, sometimes I will push my head outside and breathe,” she confessed.

Anchovy High School principal Lavern Stewart said that students will be allowed to wear face shields while in classes to facilitate easy breathing. While the wearing of masks will be mandatory, students will have the choice of purchasing branded gear.

“Parents have an option to purchase from us. However, we have instructed that the masks that the students wear must be in keeping with the colour of the uniform,” she said, disclosing that khaki, gold or black will be the accepted colours.

“There must be no writing, no graphics, nothing at all on it; it must be plain. They can also wear the surgical kind of masks.”

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com