The way they were: Students from St Dominic Savio Barataria RC Primary School SEA students last year as they prepared for the exam then at school.

Standard Five students due to write the Secondary Entrance Assessment examination will not be returning to physical classrooms when schools reopen on April 12, as was previously anticipated.

Instead, as the third academic term for 2020/2021 gets underway, it will only be students in Forms Four to Six who will return.

In announcing this via a release yesterday, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said schools will continue to operate on the hybrid system that was introduced last September at the start of the academic year.

The decision was made during a mid-morning meeting yesterday between Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly and Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh.

Following the arrival of the COVID-19 virus to Trinidad and Tobago on March 12, 2020 – a decision was taken to close all schools a few days later on March 16.

However, when the new academic term began last September – education officials advised that classes would be conducted virtually.

This was later revised during the second term which ran from January to March 2021, to allow secondary school students in Forms Four to Six to attend classes in person but only in the instances where they were required to complete labs, school-based assessments, and internal assessments.

Officials yesterday said this arrangement would remain as is.

They stressed, “Students of Forms 4-6 will access physical classes for practical subject components ONLY and all other Secondary, Primary and ECCE students will continue with the online or package systems.”

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly had previously expressed hope that Standard Five students due to write the SEA exam on June 10, would have been able to return to the physical classroom.

It was only two weeks ago that Rowley urged the nation to act responsibly during the Easter vacation as he said the reopening of schools would depend on the number of positive COVID-19 cases recorded during the two-week break.

Meanwhile, officials have assured that students will not suffer in any way at all as they said, “All educational material provided by the Ministry of Education via television, radio, print media and online will continue to be available for student and parent access.”

The hybrid school system, according to officials, will include online classes and packages for student collection; the physical return of secondary school students to classrooms will only be for the completion of lab practicals, School-Based Assessments (SBA’s) and Internal Assessments (IA’s); and face-to-face classes only where absolutely necessary.

The MOE stressed, “All other secondary school students are not to report physically for school.”

Regarding students at the primary and early childhood levels, the MOE advised, “Students will not return to their physical classrooms at the start of Term III on April 12th, 2021.”

Instead, “All classes should be held virtually and students who require packages shall utilize their usual method of collection with all safety protocols observed.”

For the general operations at schools, the MOE called for all entry protocols to be enforced.

Meanwhile, medical clearance is required for any staff or students to re-enter the school population after being suspected/confirmed to have contracted COVID-19; and medical clearance is also required for staff or students to enter the school population if another medical condition (e.g. allergies) is causing the display of flu-like symptoms which would result in being barred from entry to the school compound.