February 18, 2021
RE: Safe return to campus
Dear Machabeng College Community;
Machabeng College intends a safe return to campus on Wednesday 24th February 2021 for S5 and IBDP2 students. The lower school, the S4, and the IBDP1 students will continue with online classes until which time the COVID cases decrease and we receive leadership from the Ministry of Education. In order for a safe student return to campus, it is important to deploy the common safety measures that public health experts have recommended to schools around the world to prevent transmission of coronavirus strains. The following measures will be taken throughout the remainder of the school year and probably into the beginning of the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.
Masks at ALL Times. Students and staff wear masks in the building and on the grounds, except for specific instances:
when they are eating, engaged in a strenuous activity (like sprints or on the basketball court) during gym or athletics.
The school recommends that surgical masks be worn. They allow for normal breathing and flow of fresh air. Students will be frequently reminded of the mask protocol with positive reinforcement from our staff. The staff will be encouraged to celebrate the way that students are complying and keeping each other safe. If the research says wearing a mask is going to limit exposure, we want everyone to wear a mask.
Distancing. While space can be a challenge, ideally, we will aim to have six feet or 1.5 meters between students in movement, but when that’s not possible, students will be reminded to make space between themselves and others. That means space will be made between students at meals, when they line up for class, while they are in PE/Sports Hall waiting to start activities, and in the walkways between periods. There will not be any contact sports. Students will socially distance themselves about three feet or 1.5-meters apart at lunchtime, and the cafeteria will have rotation times. Spaces and walkways surrounding the office and frequent social meeting places will be monitored to keep traffic moving to class or to appropriate study zones. We understand that the most vulnerable a student will be during the school day will be in the cafeteria or at the outdoor eating areas— that’s when they are unmasked –– when they are consuming food. Once students are done [eating], even if they are still at the table, we expect them to put the mask back on.
Clear, one-directional walkways: Walkways are one-way only, and students are told to “aim for the middle, and to spread out” when going from one class to another. They are children, though. So even if we have one directional walkway, they will still want to socialize meaningfully: greet one another through fist bumping, high-five each other, hugging and handshakes. NOT good ideas for social distancing! We will discourage all forms of physical contact. As teenagers, they will need continual reminding. All adults will be vigilant to remind students about refraining from physical contact throughout the day.
No Lockers: Since we will be doing rotations, students will carry all of their belongings for the classes with them daily, reducing opportunities for them to congregate and socialize at the lockers. As long as we are plagued with the coronavirus, it’s possible the school will continue with the “no-locker” policy for the remainder of the school year. The issue of the public health emergency will be off and on and we will observe such policy until the danger has passed.
The “COVID Shuffle”: Recognizing that students can feel stressed and overwhelmed by the extended lockdowns, the new protocols, exams and preparing for the exams, and changes in routines, etc., teachers and staff will encourage students to stretch their legs between periods —with a little bit of levity. The school will play motivational music between periods. Twice per day, the Physical Education staff will lead aerobics to help students work through anxiety and to build endurance. Teachers will observe from their doorways and as students pass in the walkway. There are still the social distancing rules: no touching, masks on, and maintain distance between classmates.
Sanitizing, sanitizing, sanitizing: Students’ hands will be squirted with hand sanitizer on their way into their classrooms and on their way out. Teachers will sanitize desks between groups of students. But they don’t just wipe down the surfaces—they will actually follow what’s known as the “kill time”: how long the surface must remain wet with chemical to kill the coronavirus. Custodial/cleaning staff will replenish classroom sanitizer supply at the end of the school day. The sanitation protocols will also extend to the nurse’s office and the classrooms where positive cases and suspected cases have been identified. Whether there is a positive case at the nurse’s office or a higher frequency of suspected positive cases within our school population, the school will be cleaned more frequently with bleach-based disinfectants. Should a case be identified and confirmed through authorities, the Nurse and Headmaster will notify the community and the Department of Health of suspected cases.
Limited bathroom use: Students are not allowed to use bathrooms during passing periods. They will get permission from teachers during class to use the bathroom. That takes away some instructional time, but the number one concern is safety. For those who work at schools, you know that the restroom is where students often socialize. We will limit that time with restroom monitors. Students will be allowed up to 5 students at a time in the restrooms. Every hour, the restrooms will be cleaned with all surfaces being wiped down and bacteria fighting sprays will be used for the air. There will be plenty of antibacterial soap and paper towels.
Capped classroom sizes and Blended Learning: Candidate classes have a limited number of students per classroom to allow “reasonable spacing” of 1.5 meters between desks/students, and also to reduce the burden on teachers who are doing double-duty with in-person and remote schooling (blended learning). As such, the academic coordinators and Mrs. Ateka will redesign where classes will take place. Students and teachers who have completed the classes each day will be encouraged to leave the campus. The Learning Packets allow for the teachers to go to classes of rotating in small groups for customization in preparing students for the internal trial exams.
Looking ahead to more normalized climate, some classes will rotate from face-to-face instruction to a more blended learning model once we return to rotations for all students. We recognize students need face time with teachers, which calls for students to be organized accordingly to maximize their time with staff. We will continue to proceed with caution for the protection of staff and the community in structuring the campus learning environment with preventative measures and special schedules.
No field trips will be scheduled this school year.
No-visitor policy is in effect. Only parents will be admitted to the school for office visits. Conferences will be over the phone or through zoom meetings. The ordering of outside food delivery will not be allowed. Students are highly encouraged to bring a sack lunch and a bottle of water. We will have the Tack Shop open with beverages and treats.
Restroom Monitors: The cleaners will rotate with restroom duties. These duties will include keeping students distanced and narrowing numbers in the bathrooms. We ask that students help us sanitize by using paper towels to wipe off where they have stood to wash hands, to use toilet paper to wipe the toilet seat/rim when finished using the bathroom, and to flush urinals/toilets. The assigned cleaners will clean the restrooms every hour between the more populated runs.
Education campaign: Before students return to school, they will receive a video and other safety messages on proper handwashing and other safety protocols to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and the mutated strains. Science teachers will conduct in-class demonstrations and other experiments to show how germs are spreading. Morning greetings at the gate will also be focused with accolades for students on keeping the safety and preventative social practices going. During the day, staff will continue with verbal reminders that students should sanitize frequently, cover their noses, and keep moving in the walkways.
Health screenings and other preventative measures: The school has limited the number of people who can visit the nurse’s office at any one given time. The nurse added a quarantine room for students who may have been exposed to the coronavirus or who have had positive tests results and will need to be sent home. The school nurse will recommend to parents to do COVID tests for students should they display the symptoms associated with COVID. Teachers will answer screening questions every morning on a group survey questionnaire on whether they and/or students have experienced a series of symptoms that may be indicative of COVID infection and whether they had been in contact with anyone whose has been symptomatic or has had lab tests confirmed a positive result in the previous 14 days. Those answers will be directly sent to the Headmaster’s office to be reviewed daily with the nurse. Teachers who receive a positive response during the survey, will follow up with the nurse promptly if they receive a positive answer “yes” to any of the questions. As a condition for in-person reopening, parents have to agree to monitor their children daily for coronavirus symptoms to ensure that they’re not sending infected students to school. They’d also have to agree to pick up students within an hour of getting a call from the school nurse reporting their child may have been exposed to the coronavirus, is symptomatic, or that the child had reported a confirmed case in the home to the surveying first period teacher and would need to quarantine.
Protective barriers: The school intends to install Plexiglas-like barriers around the reception desk, accounting office, security registrar, the guidance office, and in the library. Similar barriers will be used in special class settings where small group and individual instruction may take place. We want to establish a barrier where teachers may need to work closely with students. Safety is the number one priority. WE know that there’s effectiveness to “pulling a group of students aside and intervening, in a timely manner, as an extension of the lesson.”
Schools are working smarter during the COVID waves. There are many active sites for review and sharing of practices for the pandemic. Machabeng College staff have learned what works and what has not worked as we continue to adjust to the climate of a pandemic. We have monitored and adjusted 4 times since the first lockdown, and we will continue to make changes for the health and safety of our community. The Senior Management Team will always err on the side of caution for the safety of the community. We will continue to follow best protocols for a return to campus.
We ask that families pay the tuition so we can afford to keep the campus safe and improve our instructional output. Please be advised that there may be more quarantines ahead for the school and the nation. We have to be open to these interruptions and go with the recommended best practices. Funding is essential for a smoother operation and better support programs. In the meantime, we will continue to improve with online learning methods, blended learning with rotations, and face to face instruction when possible. Our scholars will increase their workforce skills and they will continue to learn.
Yours in Education,
Download the Letter: COVID_Safe_Return 2021