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Belize officials take ‘cautious’ step to close schools


Belize officials take ‘cautious’ step to close schools

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Belmopan – The Belize government has announced the closure of schools here on June 18 “out of an abundance of caution, coupled with the fact that vaccination rate for teachers is not yet at an adequate level”.

The Ministry of Education in a memo to the management of schools said that face to face learning for all pre-schools, primary, secondary and Technical Vocational Institutions (ITVETs) will come to an end next Friday.

The ministry said that while many schools have successfully reopened for in-person classes with strict protocols in place to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, they are unable to test every teacher before they return to the classroom.

According to the memo, although an estimated 352 schools were green-lighted for face-to-face instruction, it is “not feasible at this time because of the large number of teachers, the waiting time for the test results if PCR tests are needed, and the uncertainty of which teachers have already been exposed, when there are only three weeks remaining for the academic year”.

The Ministry of Education said the Ministry of Health and Wellness will continue to conduct random testing at schools, as well as to continue vaccinations at each institution.

The memo also calls on schools to develop special assistance programmes and be reasonable with students who do not meet the requirements to progress to the next grade level.

Earlier this month, Health Minister Michel Chebat urged teachers to get vaccinated ahead of the new school term as Belize health authorities confirmed several positive cases of the virus in schools here.

Chebat said that it is even more important that teachers get vaccinated because they are the first line of protection for the children who are expected to return to classrooms for in-person learning in either August or September when schools reopen.

The minister of health acknowledged that there is a lot of fatigue by the general public, “but we must continue to adhere to the public health measures”.

“We must continue to wear the masks, we must continue with the social distancing, we must continue with the hand washing. It is important to recall that this virus is spread through human interaction and unless we have some control, unless we have the cooperation of the public, we will not be able to defeat this virus.” (CMC)