A picture of a classroom in St Francis Boys’ College showing cubicles on desks to enforce social distancing while in school.

Rishard Khan

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The National Parent Teachers’ Association (NPTA) and T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) is concerned about the guidelines for the reopening of schools released by the Ministry of Education.

The 15-page document released to schools outlines protocols for teachers, students and administrators, but according to the heads of the NPTA and TTUTA, their respective organisations weren’t consulted during the development of the guidelines.

“What was presented in the document was presented without consultation with major stakeholders such as TTUTA and NPTA and so forth,” TTUTA president Antonia Tekah-De Freitas told Guardian Media in a telephone interview yesterday as she explained their concern over the document.

“What we are seeing from our first look is an impact or negative impact on the terms and conditions of teachers. For example, the issue of doing classes on a rotational system and therefore the assessment of teaching, clinical supervision of teachers and so forth – as those things are in our job descriptions now – they are based on face-to-face interaction. We cannot simply transfer those to a virtual environment without first discussing the matter with the respective majority union,” she said.

According to the guidelines, the shift system would only be implemented if the guidelines from the Ministry of Health “do not allow for the entire school population to be present at any one time.”

Although it gave examples of possible shift systems which could be implemented, it did not hone in on one.

She commended the guidelines geared toward promoting the health and safety of staff and students such as the installation of additional washing stations. However, she said the union is concerned about the allocation of funding for these new measures.

Acting NPTA President Clarence Mendoza also said his organisation was not consulted on the new guidelines. Their main concern with it, he said, had to do with the social (physical) distancing requirements.

“Our students in heavily populated schools – the social distancing and the setting up of a shift system – that’s one of our main concerns right now,” Mendoza told Guardian Media in a telephone interview while on his tour of secondary schools in south Trinidad.

He also noted the association’s dissatisfaction with sanitation measures it witnessed at the Pleasantville Senior Comprehensive School during his tour.

“I know principals would still be busy putting things in place. But we walked through quite a few toilets on the compound and there is no soap dispensers, not even in a bottle,” he said.

“We know we are talking about September but we have over 300 students going through a school here any given day.”

Mendoza said the association would be writing to the National Maintenance Training and Security Company (MTS) on the issue.

Guardian Media attempted to reach Minister of Education Anthony Garcia for a comment on the matter but was unable to reach him.