PSS, NMC, private schools working with Covid-19 task force

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THE Public School System, Northern Marianas College and private schools are working with the Governor’s Covid-19 Task Force in implementing guidelines to safely accommodate students and minimize risk in schools.

Task force chairman Warren Villagomez said they have ongoing dialogues with all educational institutions, adding that all of them are aware of the recommended safety measures.

“We start early on with the planning,” he said. “We want to make sure that all parties are engaged, aware and in agreement as we safeguard the students and minimize Covid-19 risk,” Villagomez added.

Mount Carmel president Dr. Galvin Deleon Guerrero acknowledged that it is a challenge to come up with a standardized set of guidelines for all schools while allowing each school to “customize” their plans in accordance with their needs.

In developing a standardized protocol, Deleon Guerrero said they look at a number of considerations to create a school environment that is clean, disinfected or retrofitted.

He said social distancing rules will be enforced and  the temperatures of people entering the campus will be checked.

“We are also looking at response procedures if there is a case within our respective schools,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Most private schools are planning to implement a hybrid learning approach, which is a blend of face-to-face and online learning.

However, he said, the implementation will depend on the community risk level. “As far as I know, most private schools are pursuing a hybrid approach with more face-to-face interaction targeted toward the younger kids because they need it.”

Online classes will be offered to older children because “it is easier for them to engage in that kind of learning,” Deleon Guerrero said.

Education Commissioner Dr. Alfred Ada said PSS is also working with the task force  to ensure that teachers will be tested for Covid-19.

“We want to be assured that everyone is negative before entering the campus,” he added.

Deleon Guerrero said it would be reasonable for schools to require their employees to get tested. However, he doubted if it is feasible to test all students.

The CNMI has a total of 12,000 students in public and private schools, he added. “From a logistical standpoint, it would be 2021 by the time you get everyone [students] tested.”

Villagomez said there should a strategic plan for the testing process. “The implementation of temperature checks and screening at entry points can trigger Covid-19 testing,” he added.

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