330 schools in Gauteng apply to phase in more grades, says education department

Strict hygiene protocols have been implemented at schools to ensure they minimise the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Strict hygiene protocols have been implemented at schools to ensure they minimise the risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Lee Warren, Gallo Images
  • The Gauteng Department of Education has started issuing approvals for schools to deviate from the regulated phased-in process to schooling.
  • The department's approval process was halted after the head offices had to be shut due to staff members testing positive for Covid-19.
  • Some private schools have already received approval, and plan to rotate grades.

The Gauteng Department of Education says 330 schools in the province have applied for deviation to phase in more grades amid the coronavirus pandemic.

According to departmental spokesperson Steve Mabona, they had responded to and approved 270 of the applications while others were still processed.

Mabona said the department was expected to approve and sign the remaining applications on the day the head offices were shut after two staff members tested positive for Covid-19.

On Monday 1 June, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga gazetted the amended regulations on the reopening of schools amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The regulations state that schools are allowed to deviate from the phased-in return for pupils in different grades, provided they comply with minimum health, safety and physical distancing measures and requirements.

Small, special and private schools were expected to fall in the category for deviation due to their nature and size.

READ | Independent schools association pleased private schools can apply to phase in pupils in more grades

Among the schools that have already received approvals to phase in more grades, are The Ridge Preparatory School for Boys in Westcliff and Midstream College in Olifantsfontein.

Midstream principal Carel Kriek said the school received approval earlier in the week and already started bringing in more grades through a rotation system.

Although schools have been allowed to apply for deviations, they were still expected not to have more than 50% of capacity on their premises, which is why schools are rotating classes.

"We will most probably have the seniors, Grade 10, 11 and 12, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and 8 and 9, with slightly bigger groups, on Tuesdays and Thursdays until the lockdown levels are changed," Kriek said.

READ HERE | Covid-19: Eastern Cape schools placed under custodianship of health department

He said pupils in Grades 11 and 12 were already attending and Grade 1 joined the Grade 7s in the junior phase.

Kriek said pupils were initially reserved after their return but have since adapted to the new normal, getting used to Covid-19 protocols that were in place at the school.

Verbal approval

Meanwhile, The Ridge School has only received a verbal approval and is still awaiting a letter, headmaster Richard Stanley told News24.

Stanley said he anticipated that the school would receive the letter sometime next week, the day they plan to start bringing back in boys from lower grades.

"But we got verbal approval [and] so we are comfortable that the department has given us what we require," he said.

Stanley said the school has communicated the approval to parents and informed them that it planned to use the rotation approach for different grades.

READ HERE | Lesufi self-isolating after two staff members test positive for Covid-19

Like other schools, The Ridge welcomed back its Grade 7 class last week and tested the waters with them, establishing the new norms, which they would improve once other grades return.

"We have got a number of new systems in place. We are doing the very best we possibly can given the circumstances and I am pleased with the progress that our staff and our Grade 7 boys have made. And now we look forward to having the rest of them back in rotation in the days ahead," the headmaster said. 

Beaulieu College Kyalami is among the schools still waiting for approval to deviate from government's plan of phasing in schools. They applied in two phases last Wednesday and Thursday, Gary Botha, the Kyalami group of schools CEO, said.

Converting venues

He said in the meantime the school had only welcomed back Grade 11 and 12 pupils, adding that it found it necessary to bring in Grade 11s.

Botha said the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (Isasa) informed the school that its application had gone in bulk, and permission should be granted some time next week.

He said to prepare for the return of pupils, the school has converted a number of its venues into teaching and learning venues, including the staff room, hall and gymnasium.

"Because we are expecting a number of grades in the next couple of weeks, we have erected marquee tents as teaching venues as well. What that allows us to do is to maintain our social distancing," he said.   

About 50% of pupils at the school have returned, but it has ensured that those still at home were receiving exactly what was being taught in class.

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