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Palau schools reopen after Covid closure

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KOROR (Island Times/Pacnews) — Palau’s school year 2020 officially began Tuesday, but, due to the threat of the Covid-19 global pandemic, preventative measures such as temperature checks, hand-sanitizing, and maintaining respiratory hygiene have become part of regular school protocols.

This marked the first time students returned to their classrooms since the school closures on  March 23.

Around the world, parents and students are worried about the re-opening of classes due to surges in Covid-19 cases. But in Palau, which remains Covid-free, school re-openings were met with widespread excitement.

With the reopening of schools in Palau, the Ministry of Education has put into place a set of guidelines to be implemented in schools to safeguard students, teachers, school staff, and other school stakeholders. These guidelines include shortened school weeks.

According to the principal of Koror Elementary School, Mayleen Ngiriou, students, and teachers were very excited about the re-opening.

 “They were [already] on campus with their parents at 6 a.m. looking at the bulletin board,” Ngiriou said.

Teachers at Koror Elementary were busy on the night of Aug. 2 preparing their classrooms for students. During the school closure, teachers initially struggled with contacting students at home. However, like the rest of Palau, they managed to get used to the “new normal,” and were able to finish the school year.

School principal Ngiriou said  she is part of a group chat with other principals who  have all expressed excitement  about the beginning of classes.

However, some parents are concerned about the uncertainty of reopening schools amid the global pandemic.

“We gave them an assurance by saying that we should just start and take it a step at a time, because I know it was a first time for us dealing with this situation, but we were able to overcome it and our students were able to finish school,” said principal Ngiriou.

Should a positive Covid case is reported in Palau, schools will close again and implement remote learning, Ngiriou said, adding that schools will help parents with remote learning to ensure a smooth transition.

 In his recent remarks, President Thomas Remengesau said “students need to get back in school — there’s no question about it. As a parent, as your government, as the public, the expectation is we should do everything in our power and our capacity to make sure schools go on uninterrupted, and to the best that we can to deliver learning to our children.”

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