Delayed reopening for schools whose protocols are not up to par

Many students returned to the classroom yesterday for the first time since March (Photos by Carlena Knight)
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By Carlena Knight

A number of public schools which did not meet the requirements to receive students yesterday have been forced to delay their reopening.

And while some of the affected primary institutions will open their doors on Wednesday, at least two secondary schools are expected to do so on September 14.

Minister of Education Michael Browne updated the nation on this development during an interview on state media on Monday.

“In zone one, for instance, Five Islands Primary and the Golden Grove Primary School had to be pushed back a little bit. We know that things may change at a moment’s notice but we are doing several visits with several teams and as we go along each time we would realise that this may need to be done so we have tried our best to factor in even the most minute detail,” Browne said.

“So, Five Islands and Golden Grove will open on Wednesday … Cobbs Cross, Buckleys, Bendals and Liberta have been pushed back until Wednesday. In zone four, Cedar Grove will push back until Wednesday. The School for the Deaf will open on Monday September 14 and St Mary’s Secondary School … there is a CDB expansion taking place there, primarily on the yard, and I know the Ministry of Works is just doing their final touches on it, so they will open on Monday the 14th.”

Due to ongoing construction, Sir McChesney George Secondary School in Barbuda will also reopen next Monday.

According to the minister, additional teachers will be required for classes which will be split in order to comply with social distancing protocols, and to this end, recruitment and training are underway for government workers who may hold a degree in education, science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or foreign languages.

“These are not new employment but what the government is doing is repurposing persons — some who are on the job programme, some would be in other sectors … persons that are employed in statutory bodies or other state entities that are either being under-utilised or for whatever reason they themselves are unable to work,” he said.

Meanwhile, some subject areas that require physical interaction will be put on hold, according to the Director of Education, Clare Browne, who noted that while some sort of activity for physical education can be facilitated at the lower levels, the practical aspect for subjects like theatre arts — which require a significant amount of physical interaction — will be put on hold.  

The theoretical aspect of these subjects will continue as normal but Browne revealed that it would have to be looked at.

“We are in talks with CXC to look at the requirements to see if some of those could be adjusted while we observe the physical distancing protocols,” he said.

The former teacher also commended his fellow educators for their effortless work thus far in preparing their classrooms for learning in this new normal.

Meanwhile, Christiana Whyte, a teacher at Pigotts Primary School, said she was excited to get back to school yesterday, “as it made her feel alive again” – a feeling she said was communicated by the students as well.

Regarding the protocols, Whyte explained that they did have things in place but the biggest challenge was dealing with the long lines of students and assuring anxious parents.

“It was kind of difficult to get them to do what was expected. We started on a good footing but when the crowd came, parents were very anxious about what was going to happen; they wanted to even get into the classrooms and some of them got very annoyed because we told them they couldn’t.

“We had a little hiccup and then it started to rain. It was hard for our teachers today but we are still happy to be out nonetheless,” Whyte said.

Despite the hiccups, the Grade 5 teacher remains positive and assured that in time things will get better as the children and parents get accustomed to the new normal.

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