Consider easing up attendance, cohort grouping in early Endemic Phase

The re-opening of schools for Year 10 and Year 11 students nationwide last Monday has brought about a mixed kind of reaction among the parties involved. A sense of relief among educators, feeling of excitement among students to see their friends again and for some parents, a concern over the safety of their children in class.

However, the Ministry of Edu-cation deserves recognition for the hard work and efforts in ensuring a flawless and smooth first day of school, even with conducting ART tests for the returning students. Hats off to everyone involved!

With a son who is in Year 10 and has started physical lessons last Monday and another in Year 8 who will start school on January 17, I have the assurance that the ministry is doing their best to ensure the safety and well-being of my children while at school. I was surprised to learn that students are still required to attend school five-days a week and there was no change in the number of students allocated for one class, although my son insisted that the classroom is spacious enough to allow physical distancing for all the 23 students in his class.

I would have expected some form of leeway in terms of physical attendance – maybe only three days a week to allow for online learning if they are not at school, since we are still in the early Endemic Phase.

With only Year 10 and 11 students present at school, there should be enough classrooms to accommodate classes that should have been split into groups. Even most departments and offices are employing this strategy to avoid overcowding in a confined space.

According to a report on Model-driven mitigation measures for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PINAS), stu-dent cohorting, in which students are divided into two separate populations that attend in-person classes on alternating schedules, can reduce both the likelihood and the size of outbreaks.

Families, schools, and com-munities can work together to help ensure students can safely remain physically together in school.

This includes ensuring everyone who is eligible gets the COVID-19 vaccine. It means wearing a face mask, staying home when not feeling well and doing whatever is possible to keep others safe around us. When everyone does their part, the whole community wins.

Concerned Dad