Parents do not have to sign indemnity forms for their child to return to class, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said on Friday.
“The [department] does not support the use of such forms, and indemnity forms do not remove legal responsibility from the department,” she added in a statement.
“Parents do not have to sign such forms, and their children may not be refused entry to school if they do not sign. Any parent who has been asked to sign such a form should contact their district office immediately.”
Schäfer said this was one of two issues “causing confusion and distress in school communities at present”, the other being the cleaning and isolation protocol following positive cases at schools.
According to her, a detailed protocol should be followed whenever a confirmed case was reported at a school, but a confirmed case did not necessarily require a school to be closed.
“In each case, a number of factors will be considered in making the decision.
“First, the areas where the staff member/learner has physically been present need to be disinfected. For example, if a staff member has only been in one or two rooms, it is possible for schooling to continue by cordoning off and sanitising those rooms.
“On the other hand, if the staff member has been all over the school, more areas will need to be sanitised which may require a temporary closure.
“Second, the date that the staff member/learner was last present in the school is important. The NICD [National Institute for Communicable Diseases] and Department of Health have told us that the virus does not survive on surfaces for more than 72 hours.
“If a staff member was last present at a school more than a week before, sanitising a surface is not required.”
The number of direct contacts should also be considered, Schäfer said.
“We must clearly distinguish between direct [close] contact, and casual contact. Direct contact involves being very close to someone physically, or giving a hug or a handshake.
“It is important that we keep direct contact to a minimum as required by physical-distancing protocols. Only the direct contacts of a confirmed case need to isolate for up to 14 days from the date of last contact.
“Just being in the same room as a confirmed case, when maintaining the 1.5m physical distancing requirement, is considered casual contact. Casual contacts do not need to isolate, but they should be monitored for any symptoms of Covid-19.”
Schäfer said it would not be necessary to close a school if “only a handful of staff members at a school need to isolate”.
“If a large number of staff members are required to isolate, this may impact on the ability of a school to continue teaching and supervision. If this does happen, permission must be granted by the head of department to close the school.
“Thus, the circumstances of each positive case will determine whether the school needs to close. It is not an automatic decision. We have asked principals to ensure that they communicate clearly to their staff and parents of learners in this regard.”