~ Says schools to be deep-cleaned ~
PHILIPSBURG--People’s Progressive Party (PPA) leader Gracita Arrindell has issued a call for the establishment of a school for autistic children in the country and says all schools should be deep-cleaned prior to reopening, after being closed to stem the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19 in the country.
She made the call in a press release. She asked what steps are being taken and in what time frame to ensure the safe return of students to their respective establishments of learning. “This disclosure must be done in a timely and transparent manner. It has been too quiet for comfort as far as it concerns being updated on safety measures taken before the school gates are allowed to re-open. Safety measures must take place now, while the schoolyards are still empty,” she said.
“The post COVID-19 era compels [us – Ed.] to continuously update and decide what policies work best in keeping our students safe and healthy. Solid plans based on reliable data [are needed] in order to execute policies with a budget carefully worked out and discussed with stakeholders in the field prior to the schools reopening.”
She said also that preventing the spread of COVID-19 should remain a priority, as St. Maarten is a small population with a relatively large student population with approximately 30 schools and more than 8,000 students. The current school make-up includes public and government-subsidised schools.
“This list is further divided into primary, secondary, vocational and special education institutions. In this equation, we support the call to establish a separate learning institution for our autistic students,” Arrindell said.
She said best practices must be part of the new curriculum when the new school year starts. Plans should include a COVID-19 district-to-district mobilisation plan to deep-clean all schools, as well as the placing of sanitising stations at entry, sanitising/safety protocols in each classroom and around school premises, student social-distancing to ensure that social divide does not translate to a digital divide for students.
“We support the call of many parents to establish a school for autistic students. This is not a luxury issue. It’s a void in our educational system. St. Maarten has hundreds of kids at several degrees of autism. Where to house these students?” she asked.
Arrindell said it is “critically important that our citizens hold government, including Parliament, accountable for its actions. Responsible preparation towards re-opening of our schools in particular should be executed in a manner that is structured, that gives piece of mind to all involved.”
Education remains a key factor in the development of the nation, she added. “St. Maarten has been under government-mandated lockdown since early March. It is clear that being confined for long periods of time can bring tension among citizens, resulting in dangerous behaviour. When government decisions are made based on plans that are carefully thought out and evaluated regularly on their merits, social escalation can be prevented or mitigated,” she said in the release.
According to Arrindell, the coronavirus COVID-19 is a clear game-changer for everyone. Short- and long-term planning is a pre-condition for the successful reopening of the community in phases.
“We need each other more than ever before, going forward. Government must have the foresight and the tools to get the job done unbiased. Decisions can no longer be made on an ad-hoc basis. On the other hand, our people must be willing to have the discipline to adapt to a different way of doing business.”