In-person classes to start Jan. 24
By John McPhaul
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia, along with Education Secretary Eliezer Ramos Parés and Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López, announced that classes in the island’s public schools will restart face-to-face on Monday, Jan. 24.
Teachers and non-teaching staff will begin preparing in person at the schools next Tuesday, Jan. 18, as will special education therapists. In this way, teachers will be able to review the updated Department of Health protocol, including that regarding random testing, carry out a census of personnel and their vaccination status to ensure compliance with the mandates, and conduct a student census with the same purpose.
“The start of school was scheduled to restart two weeks before what we are going to be doing,” Pierluisi said at a press conference. “Now we will have face-to-face education starting on Jan. 24.”
“Given the unprecedented rise in the number of positives and hospitalizations we have, I have made this determination,” he added.
Pierluisi also announced that the dates apply to the public education system and at the same time are a recommendation for the private education system and for university education.
“We ask the university system, both public and private, to be included in the municipal tracking system or have their own system that can report to the Department of Health,” the governor said. “As I mentioned, the Department of Health, along with the Department of Education, has been reviewing the COVID protocols for our schools in order to temper them to the new conditions we face. It will be made public and next week we will be able to implement it and adjust it as necessary.”
The education secretary pointed out that the school calendar would be adjusted so that students do not miss school days.
“The changes that are being made in the restart of classes are intended to safeguard the health of all components of our school communities,” Ramos Parés said. “This clearly means that we will make adjustments to our school calendar to meet the amount of instructional time offered to our students; so we will announce in a timely manner what these adjustments will be. What everyone must be sure of is that our facilities will comply with the strictest protocols to ensure the safety of all our employees and students, and we are working hand in hand with the Department of Health to activate the protocols in the most effective way, to minimize the disruption of school environments.”
For his part, the health secretary noted that among the core issues, a new definition of fully vaccinated has been established for Education Department personnel, which would be a person with a primary series plus booster doses.
“There is an emphasis on staying home when you are sick or have symptoms; it also emphasizes increasing ventilation in classrooms by ensuring fresh air intake,” Mellado López said. “It should be remembered that by January 15 all employees of the Department of Education must have received the booster dose and in the case of students, they must be vaccinated by Jan. 31.”
“Likewise, we will be significantly increasing the number of random tests that will be carried out in schools, depending on the levels of positivity in the different regions,” the health chief added. “I reiterate that, as a people, we know what we have to do to combat this upswing, so we all have to be part of the solution. And now we also have new tools to go with vaccines, such as new drugs, monoclonal treatments, among others.”
The governor noted that “the statistics are clear, vaccination saves lives and significantly reduces the chances of infection and severe disease.”
“Everyone get vaccinated and get the booster!” he said. “And also, we must continue with prudent measures to avoid infections and to avoid more deaths.”