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DoH continues school inspections as Adopt-A-School program resumes

Department of Human Resources (DHR) personnel working in Adopt A School program in 2019.
Updated immunization, masks and social distancing a must for schools to open

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — Of the public school facilities inspected so far by Health Department, fourteen of them need assistance in various areas such as upgrades or repairs while Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has instructed ASG agencies that the government’s Adopt-A-School program goes into effect Aug. 1st in order to prepare schools prior to opening of the new school year 2020-2021.

While public schools are scheduled to open Aug. 31st, private schools are opening first and the governor is emphasizing that schools observe COVID-19 social distancing and implementation must be in order prior to opening.

The reopening of schools was one of the issues covered during Sunday’s government COVID-19 task force meeting during the DoH presentation, where Health director Motusa Tuileama Nua explained that one of the department’s initiatives is the inspection of school facilities.

He provided a briefing saying that a full report will be presented at a later time to the government, but so far, he said DoH has inspected 24 public schools and found that 14 of them need assistance with repairs and upgrades in areas of restrooms, cafeterias and water.

He recalled the governor’s previous instructions for DoH and the local Education Department to secure 45,000 masks for students and they have already secured 20% of the masks while working towards the set goal.

In preparation for the opening of the new school year, the governor said that the ASG Adopt-A-School program kicks off on Aug. 1st and all government agencies are required to conduct site visits to their designated schools — both public and private.

He said all agencies are fully aware of their duties and responsibilities for the program, which will be active through Aug. 17th. He said the site visits would also ensure that all schools comply with COVID-19 preventive measures such as social distancing.

The governor reminded DoH and ASDOE about the 45,000 masks needed before schools open with each student getting three masks to use and therefore, parents should sew masks for their children.

The governor emphasized that wearing mask as well as social distancing will be fully enforced for all public schools, saying that these are important preventive measures  for students going forward in the new school year.  

He said if a school is not prepared with implementing social distancing, then that school should not open.

According to the governor, public school principals should check on all these requirements, saying that children are now considered “vulnerable” as carriers of the virus based on new data.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us in preparation for opening schools and we all need to work together,” said Lolo, adding that he expects ASG agencies to be out in schools by next week Monday to clean up campuses and see what else needs to be done.

Last week, DoH issued a “high priority” health advisory to all public and private schools recommending safety measures to keep children protected as schools are set to reopen next month.

Among the safety measures, is students must update their immunization shots at DoH clinics. “Students will NOT be able to attend school or daycare without updated immunizations,” DoH points out.

The department strongly advises every family to get 3 reusable/washable masks per person for everyone in the household, and this includes children. (See Samoa News edition July 24th for details on the health priority advisory.)