Students with underlying conditions and those with special education needs are encouraged to remain at home, when face-to-face classes resume on November 01 for 2-weeks in the first instance, with priority for students who are in exit grades, forms, and classes, and those who have not been engaged with their teachers or disconnected from classes for varied reasons.
Education Minister Emmalin Pierre, who issued the appeal during the weekly post-cabinet media brief in St. George’s on Tuesday, gave assurance that the Ministry of Education “will continue to provide cleaning supplies and personnel for sanitising the schools,” however, she encouraged “all teachers, and all parents of students 12 years and older to get vaccinated,” noting that while “vaccination is not mandatory…it will significantly reduce any possible spread of COVID-19 as we return to school.”
She said the 2-week trial follows consultations held last week with various representative groups in the education sector, during which concerns were expressed regarding the limited impact of remote learning as some students “have not been engaged since the start of the school year,” while some “have never been engaged during a lockdown, a shutdown or online learning period since the start of COVID-19.”
The Education Minister pointed to statistics which show that only 12, 214 students out of the 21, 932 that are enrolled are “engaged in remote learning at this time, 80% or more of the times,” accounting for “55.7% of students with satisfactory participation in online learning.”
She took issue with some teachers “who are not reporting and engaging their students even if they do have connectivity and a device,” as well as those “whose lessons are of poor quality due to constraints of the virtual environment.”
She also said that only “70% of our teachers have been reporting remote learning data,” and pointed to statistics from “week three (3) of this present term,” which showed that only 1086 teachers from a staff of 1551 had submitted remote learning data to the Education Ministry.
Under the new school structure, Minister Pierre said teachers will be required to continue engaging connected students in remote learning, and simultaneously engage those students who are lagging in face-to-face lessons.
“What we have decided to do is that the teachers who are in school providing support, they are going to use their devices to connect during the same time with the students at home,” she added.
Minister Pierre went on to say: “This morning we had a technical officer visit one of our schools, and I received the report of how possible it is to use the laptop that is provided to our teachers, placed at the front of the classroom, and it captures the entire blackboard and the teacher teaching at the front to the students in the class as well as those who are home.”
The senior government minister stressed that while it is “not expected that it would work out perfectly” during the first phase, “it gives us a perfect opportunity not just for COVID-19 but for other situations.
“If we get this right, for many other reasons students are going to benefit in the long run. So, this is another level of testing for us…there would be some teething problems I expect, but we have confidence that this is the way we should go so that students in the classroom, students at home will benefit from this experience,” said the Education Minister.
She announced that from November 1-12 students in grade six at the primary school level and form five (5) at the secondary school level “will be engaged on Wednesdays to Fridays” in face-to-face classes.
Face-to-face classes will resume on Mondays only for remotely disconnected students in forms one (1) and two (2), along with the kindergarteners, grade ones and grade two students; while those in form three (3) and four (4) will be engaged on Tuesday’s only, along with students attending grades three (3) to five (5).
Classes will also resume for remotely disconnected students at the T.A. Marryshow Community College (TAMCC), with Mondays and Tuesdays designated for year one (1) students only, while year two (2) students will be engaged from Wednesdays to Fridays.
Additionally, Minister Pierre said that while private schools can electronically apply to seek approval to reopen, approval will be granted on a “case by case basis, according to several factors including the number of students and the size of the school.”
The Education Minister affirmed that “all other information will be communicated to parents from the desk of the principal of the school and warned that “all of our truancy officers, and school attendant officers will be engaged to follow up with parents and students to ensure that they comply” with the new school requirements.