In a circular distributed to all administrative staff in schools and regional directorates, the ministry presented the protocol through several diagrams.
As soon as a positive COVID-19 case is confirmed inside schools, the administrative staff must inform local administrative and health authorities, as well as the regional education directorate.
A special committee consisting of administrative, health, and education authorities will then visit the school to inspect whether the institution complies with safety regulations. The committee includes a representative from the Ministry of Labor, as well, if the concerned school is a private institution.
After the inspection, the committee will issue a report on the situation of the school and its compliance with the safety protocol.
If the report is negative, the school will immediately shut down for 14 days and students will turn to remote education.
If the report determines the school complies with safety regulations, the protocol to follow depends on whether the positive COVID-19 case is a student, a teacher, or a member of the administrative staff.
The protocol to follow when a student tests positive for COVID-19 includes three main steps, in addition to the disinfection of the entire school.
First, the student must undergo treatment at home or in the hospital, depending on their health situation. After their recovery is confirmed with new COVID-19 tests, the student has the right to go back to school.
The second step is closing the student’s classroom and conducting COVID-19 tests on all his classmates. If no other classmate tests positive, the students must quarantine at home and follow remote classes for 14 days. However, if another classmate has contracted the virus, the classroom will be closed for two weeks.
The third step is conducting tests on other students from different classes who made contact with the COVID-19 case. If any students test positive, the entire school will be shut down for 14 days. If not, classes will continue normally.
The protocol for handling COVID-19 cases among students also considers two special situations: When the student who tests positive lives in a school dormitory, and when they use school buses.
If the patient lives in a dormitory, all the students residing in the facility will enter a 14-day quarantine period and undergo COVID-19 tests. If any student tests positive, the entire school will be closed for 14 days. If not, the students can resume their studies normally after the quarantine period.
The same measures apply to students who use the same school bus as the COVID-19 patient. If any of them become infected, the entire school must shut down for two weeks. If not, students will resume their studies normally after a 14-day quarantine period.
Schools must follow relatively similar protocols when pedagogical or administrative staff members test positive for COVID-19. The patients must immediately undergo treatment at home or at the hospital and can only resume their work after negative tests confirm their recovery.
When a teacher tests positive for COVID-19, all the classrooms where they teach will immediately close and their students will undergo medical tests. If tests do not confirm any COVID-19 cases among students, they can return to school and resume their in-person education after a 14-day quarantine period. If at least one COVID-19 case appears among students, the entire school will be closed for two weeks.
Health authorities will also conduct COVID-19 tests on teachers and other staff who made contact with the infected teacher. Similarly to students, if any other staff member proves infected, the entire school will shut down for 14 days. If not, classes will continue normally.
All in all, the Ministry of Education is prepared to close schools as soon as they record more than one COVID-19 case. The protocol seeks to preserve the health and safety of students and prevent schools from turning into COVID-19 hotspots.
In Tuesday’s circular, the ministry called on the directors of schools to strictly respect the protocol and warned that any non-respect of the directives could lead to penalties.