Shereen Gallie, the principal of The Settler’s High School, has tested positive for Covid-19.
A letter on the school’s website by vice-principals Louisa Hall and Hugo Smuts said Ms Gallie had been sick at home since Wednesday May 27 and on Monday June 1 they had learnt that she had tested positive.
“We are sharing this information with you to keep you informed, but there is no need for panic,” the letter says, adding that all National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) protocols were followed and Ms Gallie had no close contact with staff or pupils because she complied with all the school’s safety guidelines and stayed home after feeling unwell. “The safety of our children and staff members remains our priority.”
The letter says her office was cordoned off since she fell ill and the school has hired a firm to clean the offices and female cloakrooms.
The Western Cape Education Department has advised the school that it can remain open as teacher movement can be easily tracked and the prinicpal’s office can be decontaminated without affecting other parts of the building, the letter adds.
“Offices or classrooms are also smaller spaces than a big shop and, as there are windows that can open for ventilation, it is safe for use within a much shorter period. All the documentation we have received basically implies that if the safety precautions of hand hygiene (sanitising and washing), wearing a mask and social distancing is adhered to, we can protect ourselves.”
The WCED confirmed schools could stay open if the area could be contained, but the department did not comment about the specifics of the incident at The Settler’s High School.
Education MEC Debbie Schafer said: “While we understand that the public is entitled to be informed of developments in the province, we also have a duty to ensure that information given does not compromise the confidentiality of our staff or learners, and that individual schools are not stigmatised. Our staff is under enough stress without their individual schools being named in the media, which will also lead to further enquiries and added pressure.”
As of Friday May 29, some 32 Western Cape schools had reported Covid-19 cases with some 37 staff testing positive for the virus. Five of the schools and six of the infected staff are at schools in the metro-north district.
“Please note, however, that the number of schools with confirmed staff cases does not mean that they contracted the virus at the school, nor does it mean that the school is at risk,” Ms Schafer said. “In many of the cases, the staff member has not even returned to school since schools reopened as they fell ill before returning. The department has issued clear guidelines to schools on how to manage confirmed, and suspected, cases of Covid-19, as well as the preventative screening measures all schools must implement daily. These have been developed with the assistance of health authorities to ensure that our staff and learners are as safe as possible at school.”
On Monday June 1, The Settlers opened for matric pupils, and, according to the letter on the school’s website, some 83% of them attended and completed a Covid-19 orientation programme.