The Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) is alerting the population that the nation’s primary and secondary schools could remain closed for much longer than originally thought.

Schools were scheduled to re-open on Tuesday 21 April 2020.

Speaking with Guardian Media, TTUTA’s Second Vice-President, Kyrla Robertson-Thomas, notes that most schools already are overcrowded, which makes social distancing impossible.

“Schools are not able to practice social distancing, especially as many of our classes are already overcrowded,” she points out. “Definitely that would be not one of the areas that would be opened, and the union would not sit down and allow for that to happen.”

Kyrla Robertson-Thomas also observes that in the future, school principals and supervisors would have to re-think the practice of over-crowding of classrooms. She says the COVID-19 crisis has clearly highlighted that phenomenon as something that will have to change.

“The world as we know it has now changed and going forward, all of these things will need to be taken more seriously than before. Where people were lenient and would allow for an extra two or three students in a classroom, that can no longer be allowed to happen,” the TTUTA 2nd VP stated.

She added: “Looking at some of the dates, they are saying that for the next year, we may have to be practising social distancing. Clearly, we have to re-evaluate our education system, not only here but in the islands and overseas. It’s a new way of life that we are going to get into.”

Kyrla Robertson-Thomas said teachers should not worry about filing taxes before April 30th. Several teachers are concerned about filing since no word was given by the Ministry of Finance to push back the date, to allow for late filing.

“These things would have to be taken up later,” Mrs Robertson-Thomas said. “People should be concerned about keeping themselves and their families safe.”

She said the relevant government ministries should put systems in place to ensure that persons who need to file can do so, without having to venture out.

With regard to examinations and the COVID crisis impact on those, Mrs Robertson-Thomas said the dates put forward by the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) do not seem possible, and the online mechanisms they hope to implement may not happen.

The TTUTA Second Vice-President also stated that while TTUTA’s offices remain closed, union officers are accessible to members needing further guidance and information.