By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
BAHAMAS Union of Teachers President Belinda Wilson said that the union is closely monitoring the situation at the Freeport Primary School in Grand Bahama after a teacher there tested positive for COVID-19.
On Friday, the school was dismissed around 1pm, and parents were asked to immediately collect their children.
When contacted on Saturday, Mrs Wilson said: “The health and safety of teachers and students are paramount for me as the president and the union will ensure that their safety is first.
“It’s the union’s expectation that the school will be cleaned and sanitised, teachers and students who are close contacts would be quarantined and that contact tracing will be conducted in a timely manner.”
She also said: “I can confirm that a teacher from Freeport Primary School tested positive for COVID-19 and school was dismissed.”
According to reports in the Freeport News, District Superintendent Ivan Butler indicated Friday that the teacher became ill a few weeks ago but was not at school, and later tested positive with the coronavirus.
The teacher, he said, was not at school for the past two weeks adding that no one at the school was in any kind of danger.
Mrs Wilson said that Dr Frank Bartlett, chairman of the GB COVID-19 task force, met with staff at the school on Friday.
She noted that the union is monitoring the situation closely. The union’s area vice president, Quinton Laroda, has met with Dr Bartlett and with Ministry of Education officials in Grand Bahama.
“The area vice president Laroda has been in meetings and will continue to be in dialogue with the medical professional and the district superintendent. I am being updated regularly by the school representative and the area vice president and we will monitor the situation,” she said.
Freeport Primary uses a hybrid model where students are engaged in face-to-face instructions three days of the week, and two days of online virtual learning.
Earlier this month, Dr Bartlett noted that the task force would be reviewing the strategic plans for the schools and will conduct evaluations of the 18 schools that are using the hybrid and the face-to-face models.
He noted that the main concern was with the face-to-face model due to the risk associated with contracting the disease. He said that the challenge and fear is the possibility that students will bring potential diseases into the school.
In a statement released Friday, Minister of State for Grand Bahama Kwasi Thompson urged residents to be encouraged as the number of COVID-19 cases increased after the Ministry of Health reported 19 new cases for Grand Bahama for October 22. This came after several weeks of a decline on the island.
He stressed that persons should wear masks when they leave home, wash hands frequently and thoroughly, sanitize frequently touched surfaces, and avoid large gatherings.
Mr Thompson said businesses must continue to enforce health protocols with employees and customers.
“We are all grateful that our COVID-19 infections have been down for several weeks. I take this opportunity to commend residents for your collective efforts and self-discipline which contributed to the decrease in new cases here on the island since the most recent surge.
“However, the Ministry of Health reported 19 new cases for Grand Bahama in its daily COVID-19 report for October 22, 2020. This number indicates an increase which we should all be concerned about and that we must get ahead of.
“As we now resume many of our daily activities and move into a greater sense of normalcy, I encourage Grand Bahamians not to let your guards down. While we may all be battling COVID-19 fatigue we must keep this fight at the forefront of our minds. Remember that we are still in the midst of a global pandemic and must continue to practice health protocols to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
“Although we are close to completing the renovations to our hospital, health facilities are still very vulnerable. Our economy is still feeling the effects of previous lockdowns, and no one wants any further restrictions.
“This means you should wear your masks when you leave home, wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, sanitize frequently touched surfaces often, and avoid large gatherings. Businesses must continue to enforce health protocols with employees and customers.
“In addition, I encourage the public to only rely on official sources for accurate news and updates. It is critical that we remain calm and avoid sharing false news as we navigate this new reality,” Mr Thompson said.