The Malta Independent 24 September 2020, Thursday

Online teaching encouraged for post-secondary institutions – guidelines

Tuesday, 15 September 2020, 18:27 Last update: about 8 days ago

Online teaching and learning should either be complementary to class teaching or actually replace contact teaching, to reduce the class size as much as possible and to reduce staff and students mobility and contact on campus, the guidelines to the educational sector for the re-opening of Post-Secondary Schools read.

"The smaller the cohort size for in-person learning the lower the risk to students, staff and their families. Schools are enjoined to keep the size of each group of students as small as is feasible."

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The guidelines also read that maximum efforts should be made to maintain an adequate physical distance of 1.5 metres between students.

"At Post-Secondary schools/institutions it is recommended that students wear masks and/or visors at all times, including in their class, besides in common areas and whilst on Campus. Exceptions would be made to the wearing of mask or visors is when students are exercising and for specific medical conditions." Staff members are required to wear a face mask and/or visor at all times when in the presence of others.

The guidelines also highlight that considerations must be made for all staff members in staff rooms to keep an adequate physical distance of two metres from other staff members. "It must be ensured that in staff rooms, adequate care is taken to avoid mixing of staff members and where desks are used for corrections, persons always maintain the requisite social distance. If a system of 'hot desking' is in operation, each person should be responsible to clean the surfaces and shared electronics with suitable agents before and after use. Meetings should be held virtually wherever possible. The number of teachers in staff rooms and the time spent in the staff room should be reduced to the minimum."

Timetabling was also addressed. Students at Post-Secondary schools/Institutes have various subjects of choice. "Timetabling should be such to have the least movements and mixing of students possible. Very accurate records need to be kept of the movements of students at all times in order to facilitate contract tracing by the Public Health authorities should there be a COVID-19 positive case. This information would be used when carrying out the risk assessment by the Health Authorities."

The guidelines highlight that carrying out lessons outdoors dilutes the presence of the viral particles in the air thus contact tracing would consider this as a mitigating factor against spread when considering close contacts who should be placed in quarantine.

The guidelines also instruct such institutions to enforce the policy of staying home if unwell for both students and staff members.

"In such a situation of sustained community spread of coronavirus, one must view the guidance for educational institutions as being bi-directional, on occasion partial/full school closures may need to be instituted with learning continuing by virtual means until it is possible to resume in-person learning again."

Read the guidelines here
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