Secondary school students and staff, and primary school teachers, must now wear masks inside education buildings and classrooms, it has been announced.
The rule change comes as a number of schools have been hit by covid-linked staff shortages, forcing them to close to certain year groups.
Schools affected so far include: Grainville, Les Quennevais, Le Rocquier, and Samarès School Nursery.
In advance of the new school term, pupils and staff were urged to test themselves with lateral flow devices before returning to school. All staff in the school and childcare sector were offered a PCR test prior to their return.
It is unclear how many staff and students currently have covid. The Government has not updated its school statistics since 17 December, but is expected to do so this week.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden said that headteachers had also been asked to "update their risk assessments and workplace safety plans".
Express has asked about specific plans for ensuring adequate ventilation in schools, and whether there are any plans to acquire air-purifying devices, and is awaiting a response from Government.
Deputy Wickenden noted in his statement that CO2 monitors have already been purchased and are in use in some schools.
In November, Jersey teaching union members demanded strict measures to stop the spread of covid in schools, with NASUWT and the NEU separately writing to Deputy Wickenden to demand the reintroduction of PCR testing for all direct contacts, the use of face masks in classrooms, and the cancellation of non-essential assemblies and extra-curricular activities.
Pictured: Education Minister Deputy Scott Wickenden said that the department could now tailor measures for different schools, and that "blanket decisions across all schools is not always necessary or appropriate."
As term has started, several schools on the island have announced that year groups would be working from home on certain days due to high levels of staff absence, and others have warned of potential “disruption."
On Monday, Grainville Headteacher Sue Morris said that, due to the “high volume of staff absence", they would starting the term with a number of different year groups being absent from school throughout the week: Year 7 on Tuesday and Wednesday, Year 8 on Thursday and Year 9 on Friday.
Les Quennevais also confirmed year group closures due to covid-related staff absences, saying they were “unable to open to students in [Years] 8 & 9 until Friday.”
In a Facebook post, the school said that students in these affected year groups would have work set out for them on Google Classroom, adding that they were “continually assessing the ongoing situation but positive cases are having a significant impact on our ability to operate safely so further arrangements may follow.”
Pictured: All staff and students were asked to take a lateral flow test before their return to school today.
Le Rocquier's Headteacher, Andrew Adkin, said: “All students are in school today, but tomorrow [5 January] Year 8 will be asked to work from home, and on Thursday [6 January] Year 9 will be asked to work from home.”
He added that, dependent on circumstances, on Friday Year 10 may be asked to work from home, but that this will be confirmed later in the week.
He said these closures were due to covid and normal absences too, as well as the “need to run the school very safely.”
Samarès School Nursery will also be learning remotely this week.
Though there are no closures currently at Haute Vallée, a letter was sent out to parents at the start of the week by Headteacher Stuart Hughes, confirming the school was open for the first day of term but detailing that there were “several staff absences due to covid.”
He said that the situation “remains fluid and is changing by the hour”, adding that he was “fearful” that the school would “come under increasing pressure over the coming days and weeks” and that “at short-notice, we may have to move to home-learning for certain year groups.”
Hot meal services in schools have also been impacted.
Caring Cooks of Jersey, which provides the 'Flourish' hot meals programme, said that both of their chefs had contracted covid over the school holidays, while "many" of their catering staff were isolating. As a result, they said they could only serve cold food today.
Commenting on the covid situation in schools, Deputy Wickenden said: “We are fortunate to be able to tailor the control measures available to the situation in particular school settings, which means blanket decisions across all schools is not always necessary or appropriate.
“We knew it was going to be a difficult start for schools and colleges as covid continues to impact our island and I’m grateful to officers who have worked with school and college leaders to monitor and assess the situation.”
On the year group closures, he added: "The schools have informed parents and students and will continue to keep them updated.
“I do apologise for any inconvenience this will cause but the safety of our students and community is paramount in our decision making. We will continue to review the situation daily with health officials.”
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