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Our Jamaica

Role of administrators called into question amid COVID spikes

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2021 | 2:06 AMHopeton Bucknor/Gleaner Writer
Photo by Hopeton Bucknor A Munro schoolboy exits the premises after the institution ended face-to-face classes.
Photo by Hopeton Bucknor A student leaving Munro College on Monday in the wake of the St Elizabeth school’s closure because of a COVID-19 cluster.
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The debacle at Munro College where the part administrators played in a COVID-19 breakout brought into stark reality, the part leaders at organisations must play in order to help curtail the spread of COVID-19.

MUNRO ANGER


Administrators blamed for COVID-19 cluster

ADMINISTRATORS AT the all-boy Munro College in St Elizabeth came under fire on Monday for reported lax coronavirus protocols and a culture of complacency that caused an outbreak of infections that has shuttered the school.

Munro’s rash of COVID-19 cases – one of the biggest known school outbreaks with 21 students and two staffers infected – is bound to pile more pressure on the Holness administration over face-to-face classes as the national toll lurched beyond 19,300, with 378 deaths.

Monday’s exodus of boarders was in response to a directive from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to close the Malvern-based school and revert to virtual learning because of the cluster of COVID-19 cases.

The school was on lockdown on Monday except for students who were ushered off the compound into the care of their parents, who travelled from all across the country.

Personnel from the St Elizabeth Health Department, who were reportedly undertaking coronavirus testing, issued students with medical documents before they were allowed to leave the premises.

“I was informed that the school found out that there were a number of students with COVID-19 symptoms from as early as the first week of January,”said a parent, who asked to be identified only as Ms Barrett.

“I think if they had handled the situation a little more carefully, things would not have gotten out of hand so badly.”

Barrett was on hand to pick up her son who had been issued with a certificate of clearance from health officials. She said that her son had told her more than two weeks ago that numerous students had tested positive for COVID-19 but she did not believe him.

“I told him that if this was so, the school would have made an alarm,” Barrett said.

Boarding students also disclosed that COVID-19 protocols at the institution were not being enforced as students were involved in high-contact sports.

“My cousin is one of the students who got COVID-19,” a student told The Gleaner. “We played football together almost every day, so it would be easy for us to get COVID19 if we have any infected students.”

Attempts to contact Mark Smith,

principal of Munro, on Monday were unsuccessful.

But in a statement issued on Saturday, Smith said that after students demonstrated flulike symptoms, administrators triggered coronavirus response measures to preserve the safety of students and staff.

He said that the school has been vigilant in ensuring the observance of COVID-19 protocols.

“Since the resumption of school on January 11, 2021, the administration has utilised a high testing strategy to identify any possible case of COVID-19, so as to take appropriate action,”said Smith.

The statement said that since the reopening in January, 44 students who displayed flulike symptoms were tested. All returned negative results as recently as February 4, the headmaster reported.

However, on Saturday, February 13, the Ministry of Health & Wellness engaged the administration in an urgent meeting to discuss the results of COVID-19 tests that were carried out on Wednesday, February 10.

The administration was advised of the outbreak of positive cases.

All students have reverted to online instruction until further notice.