When a pupil at Ocean View Secondary School in Cape Town shared that she was experiencing multiple Covid-19 symptoms, the school governing body (SGB) decided to close the school as a preventative measure while awaiting results.
It asked the provincial education department to send in a decontamination team, so it could open its doors again this week.
But the department advised that it first needed confirmation of a positive case before making the necessary arrangements.
Department spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said only the head of department could close a school.
She said it was up to the district official to decide on actions taken with confirmed cases, following an assessment with the principal.
Pupils ended up staying at home on Friday and Monday, with the school only finding out around 10:00 on Monday that the pupil had tested negative.
Principal Kieyaam Klein questioned how pupils could be allowed back at school before knowing the results.
“I personally do have a major problem with the protocol,” he told News24 on Monday.
“I would rather lose two days of teaching, than lose a teacher or learner”.
The matric pupil had sent a message on Wednesday afternoon, saying that she was going to the doctor because she had a severe headache, pains in her chest and was concerned about her coughing.
“Late in the evening, about 23:00, we got an sms… stating the child cannot breathe and her head is exploding [from the pain],” Klein said.
He said he received a letter from False Bay Hospital that the pupil would need to be in isolation while awaiting test results.
He then notified the department.
“They said close the three classes [where the pupil was] and utilise other classrooms. We can’t close the girls toilets as we don’t have backup toilets,” he said.
“We don’t know where else the girl was walking. It exposes all of us”.
Cleaning should happen ‘all the time’
Hammond said that when there was a suspected case of Covid-19, the school should continue to operate, ensuring that all health and safety protocols were being adhered to, including the cleaning of the school.
“The cleaning of areas is required all the time. It should not only take place when there is a suspected case of Covid-19”.
This was outlined in their departmental guidelines, based on advice from the health department.
She said adherence to these guidelines was important, so as not to “sow panic and fear or create further disruption”.
“While we fully understand the fear and anxiety of the SGB, we cannot close down schools and decontaminate them every time there is a suspected case of Covid-19,” she said.
“Providing proof is not an arduous task if there has been confirmation. It is required so that the head of department can make an informed decision based on medical facts”.
She said confirmation was also needed for audit purposes.
Pupils are set to return to the school on Tuesday.