These guidelines are applicable for primary and secondary schools for the scholastic year 2020/21, thereby referred to as ‘School/s’ in this document. Each School should adapt these guidelines according to the specific setup of the School itself and in line with other guidelines as issued from time to time by the Public Health authorities.
These guidelines are meant to mitigate, as much as possible, against the transmission of COVID-19. Although the risk of infection is reduced, it can never be completely eliminated. Parents/guardians and students need to understand that a risk of transmission will still exist even if these guidelines are rigorously followed and implemented.
Gauci said that if children have any COVID-19 symptoms or if parents have any suspicions, it is important they are not sent to school. Any child that develops symptoms on the way to school, will be kept in a “COVID bay” until they are picked up. In the case of a confirmed case in a school, authorities will contact trace and a designated liaison officer, one per school, will carry out a risk assessment.
Schools will open slightly earlier under the new protocols so that parents don’t drop children off at the same time. It is unclear if this means there will be staggered opening times for pupils. Once at their desks, the guidelines say schools will make an effort to try keep them 1.5 metres apart in order to prevent any COVID-19 spread.
Class sizes will be limited so that the number of children needing quarantine in case of infection will be as low as possible. There will be so-called “bubbles” or groups of children taught together in both primary and secondary schools and not just during class, but also during break time. Areas of schools that aren’t normally used might have to be utilized to keep the numbers of pupils in classrooms low. Fabri said this will work in practice by adopting measures such as students being assigned a classroom, rather than teachers being assigned a classroom. He said talks are ongoing with unions about whether the measures will mean an increase in teacher numbers, while Gauci said there will be a special set of guidelines for Learning Support Assistants, who work closely with children.
Students aged between three and 11 must wear a mask outside class in communal areas while those aged over 11 and staff will have to wear them at all times. All pupils will have to wear a mask on school transport. And vulnerable students and those with vulnerable parents are being advised to wear a mask, but assessments will be on a case-by-case basis. Records will be kept of which students are in which class and what staff they come into contact with to help with contract tracing.
As well as being obliged to wear masks, pupils on school transport will have to distance from each other. Windows must remain open, and there will be sanitizer provided as well as cleaning between journeys. Parents must check students before being put on the bus in the morning. Fabri said that the bubbles on transport will mean that the students on a bus will always have to be the same group. A student won’t be able to switch buses and go to someone else’s house, for example. All those who live within 1.5km of school will be encouraged to walk or have their parents collect them.
Fabri said that education is best done in school, so the authorities prefer students to be in school if possible. However, the authorities are drafting plans for those that end up having to spend time at home. This will be based on “tele-schooling.” Authorities are currently discussing models with unions to find out the best methods of online teaching for vulnerable children.
Pupils will continue to have homework assigned to them, but teachers will be encouraged to give digital homework to limit the possibility of infection from exchanging workbooks. Teachers will also be encouraged to have students correct homework during class.