Newsletters


2020-05-09
Newsletter 318 - WCED - Letter from Brian Schreuder - Covid 19 - Reopening of Schools


Office of the Head: Education

Dear Principals and School Management Teams of ordinary public schools (For information: governing bodies)

Re-opening of schools – Phase 1: Return of SMTs and cleaning staff

As you know, the National Minister of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), Angie Motshekga, announced on Friday, 30 April 2020, that the basic education sector would resume in phases over the weeks ahead.

The National Minister indicated that School Management Teams (SMTs), non-teaching and especially cleaning staff are required to resume duty on 11 May 2020. Teachers will return on 18 May 2020 and Grades 12 and 7 learners on 01 June 2020. Whilst the 11th and 18th are fixed dates, the National Minister indicated that the 01 June 2020 return date for the first learner cohorts is a tentative date and would first require National Corona Command Council (NCCC) and Cabinet approval, based on certain considerations.

I want to assure you that I understand your concerns for staff and learner safety and, while limited staff (SMT, cleaning staff, non-teaching staff) will return on Monday, 11 May 2020 to oversee the cleaning of the school, be available to receive hygiene and safety packs that have been ordered and are expected to be delivered to schools within the week, and to start drawing up risk mitigation and action plans in preparation for the arrival of learners, I will only allow further members of staff and learners to return on the designated dates if all the essential hygiene and safety equipment required have been received. This includes hand sanitisers and liquid soap, masks and digital, non-contact thermometers for screening.

There is some concern about the safety of SMTs and cleaning staff returning on 11 May 2020. As the numbers returning to a specific school are very low for next week, all staff will be able to maintain excessive social distancing. Schools already have soap and cleaning materials to start cleaning and hand sanitisers are expected to be delivered early next week. All staff returning next week will already be in possession of masks, as the regulations have required from 01 May 2020 that all people must wear masks when they leave their homes and go to shops, etc., so key safety measures will be in place for the first week. Before the rest of the teaching staff join, I would want to be assured that masks have been delivered to all schools.

There are a number of orientation documents that we want to share with schools. Unfortunately, these have not yet been finalised by the DBE. These include DBE Standard Operating Procedures, managing staff with comorbidities and an orientation guideline/programme. Consequently, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) has drafted a school cleaning guideline and guidelines for dealing with Covid-19 matters, in line with the DBE draft documents. These are being finalised and translated and will be sent to schools over the weekend to reach you by Monday morning at the latest.

The guidelines will include information on the responsibilities of the principal and SMT, details on an orientation programme to be conducted by all schools, what action a school must take should a teacher or learner appear ill or display symptoms associated with Covid-19, and the process involved if there is a confirmed case of Covid-19. These guidelines will also include other safety measures, such as the screening of teachers and learners, as well as the responsibilities associated with school feeding.

The main reason for the return of SMTs, non-teaching and cleaning staff on 11 May 2020 is to prepare the school for the return of teachers and then learners.

The following tasks should be undertaken by principals and SMTs:

1.Oversee the cleaning of the premises

  • Advice from the Department of Health clearly indicates that schools do not need deep cleaning or sanitising as they have been closed for more than a month. Only a thorough cleaning is required, as you would do after a long holiday. In this case though a thorough cleaning should take place and key attention should be paid to common areas and areas that could become prone to contamination (staff room, toilets, door handles, stair railings, kettles and urns, table surfaces, etc.).
  • All classrooms, administrative offices, hostels, toilets and other facilities need to be cleaned to meet the required health and safety standards.
  • Additional cleaning materials have been ordered for schools and will be delivered to schools. Information on the date of delivery will be communicated to you via your district office.

2.Put measures for hygiene control and safety in place prior to the return of teachers and learners

  • The WCED will be delivering a hygiene and safety pack to all public schools in the province. This pack will include the cleaning materials, as mentioned above, masks, soap, sanitiser and thermometers for screening. This will probably be delivered in multiple deliveries in the week as different service providers were used due to the quantities required by the sector as a whole
  • Guidelines on the utilisation of this pack will be sent to schools, as well as additional measures for safety.
  • The service providers delivering the safety and hygiene packs will be in contact with the principal of every school to ensure that someone is available to receive the goods. Dates and times will be confirmed.
  • I have already made it public that a school will not open for learners if the following have not been delivered to schools:
    • Hand sanitisers
    • Liquid soap
    • Face masks
    • Thermometers for screening
    • Cleaning materials

Your circuit manager will monitor the delivery to keep me informed if any of these materials have not been received by 15 May 2020 (for me to consider the return of teachers) or by 25 May 2020 (for me to consider if learners may return).

3.Report damages and theft to property

  • All incidents of burglary and vandalism must be reported to Safe Schools and SAPS.
  • Emergency maintenance forms, where necessary, must be completed and sent to the district office so that the damage can be assessed.
  • Repairs to minor incidents should please be addressed where possible.

In the coming days and weeks further information on screening and other safety protocols, hostel procedures, curriculum and assessment planning and communication with parents will be sent to schools. We have had to adapt a variety of procedures and protocols to comply with the National Regulations during this pandemic and to accommodate changes to the curriculum.

This is a period that demands leadership, courage and creativity to assist the WCED to navigate a very difficult period in education and in the country.

Thank you that I can count on your leadership and cooperation. Yours sincerely

BK SCHREUDER HEAD: EDUCATION DATE: 2020-05-07