Koror Elementary School Principal Mayleen Ngiriou sanitizing the students' hands during the lunch period. Photo by Telbakes Yano

School year 2020 officially began yesterday, but, due to the threat of the COVID-19 global pandemic, preventative measures such as temperature checks, hand-sanitizing, and maintaining respiratory hygiene have become part of regular school protocol.

This marked the first time students returned to classrooms since the school closures on  March 23.

Around the world, parents and students are worried about the re-opening of classes due to surges in COVID-19 cases. But in Palau, which remains COVID-free, school re-openings were met with widespread excitement.

With the reopening of schools in Palau, the Ministry of Education has put into place a set of guidelines to be implemented in schools to safeguard students, teachers, school staff, and other school stakeholders, such as shortened school weeks.

Students and parents flooded Koror Elementary School in the early morning of August 3.

According to the Principal of Koror Elementary School, Mayleen Ngiriou, principals, students, and teachers were very excited about the re-opening.

“When I saw some students at the store, they were excited about school starting on Monday,” said Principale Ngiriou. “They were even on the campus with their parents at 6AM looking at the bulletin board.”

Teachers in Koror Elementary were busy on the night of August 2, preparing their classrooms for students. During last year’s school closure, teachers from KES initially struggled with contacting students at home. However, like the rest of Palau, they managed to get used to the “new normal”, and were able to finish the school year.

Principle Ngiriou said that she is part of a group chat with other principles, who  have all expressed excitement for the beginning of classes.

However, some parents expressed their concerns about the uncertainties of reopening amid the global pandemic.

“We gave them assurance by saying that we should just start and take it a step at a time, because I know it was a first time for us dealing with this situation, but we were able to overcome it and our students were able to finish school,” said Principal Ngiriou.

Should a positive COVID case come to Palau, schools will close again and implement remote learning. Principal Ngiriou mentioned that, in this case, they will be helping parents with remote learning to ensure a smoother transition.

During the July 15 Education Convention, President Remengesau said that “Students need to get back in school, there’s no question about it. As a parent, as your government, as the public, the expectation is we should do everything in our power and our capacity to make sure schools go on uninterrupted, and to the best that we can deliver learning to our children.”

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