Schools could reopen on 1 June for grades 12 and 7, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga announced at a media briefing on Thursday evening.
However, Motshekga emphasised that this date is a proposal approved by the National Command Council (NCC) and is subject to further consultations, including approval by the Department of Health.
She said, “The proposed date for the first phase of schooling is 1 June, 2020. Learners in grades 12 and 7 may resume schooling on that date provided that all the necessary measures are in place and approved by the [NCC].”
Teachers return on 18 May
Motshekga added that office-based staff will return to work on 4 May, while school management teams will return on 11 May to prepare the schools prior to return of learners. Teachers are set to resume on 18 May.
“The plan is to have officials in the schools to receive the material that is required for the safety measures, but also to prepare the school for learning and teaching under the new conditions,” she said.
The Minister stated that the school calendar will only be gazetted once the administrative work and consultations have been completed.
An earlier draft amended school calendar presented to Parliament this week had proposed 6 May as the date grades 12 and 7 would resume. However, parents expressed concern that COVID-19 infection rates are still rising.
Standard operating procedures
The number of confirmed cases rose by 354 on Wednesday, the highest margin in a 24-hour period since the beginning of the outbreak in South Africa.
Motshekga said her department has developed standard operating procedures for the containment and management of COVID-19 for childcare facilities, schools, and school communities.
Measures include sanitising school buses and classrooms, limiting contact, physical distancing, wearing of cloth masks by both learners and teachers, and prohibiting mass public events.
In addition, the department has developed a basic and essential hygiene and sanitation package, the Minister said. These include cleaning and disinfection materials, personal protective equipment (PPE), sanitisers, hand-washing soap, gloves, cloth masks and thermometers.
Motshekga added, “Screening of learners and educators will be done at the reopening of schools, starting with Grades 7 and 12. Temperature checks will be administered.
“Learners or staff members who present with raised temperatures, will then be considered for isolation and testing.
“Special arrangements will be made to permit learners and teachers, who are currently in other towns or cities, provinces and/or neighbouring countries, other than those where their respective schools are located, to return to their schools and places of residence.”