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By Theresa Goodwin

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The Director of Education has expressed confidence in the plans of school administrators to fully reopen schools for students at all levels today.

Clare Browne said that principals in the public system will be following the same guidelines they worked tediously to put together for the reopening of the academic year last September.

Additional changes were made to that document as of Friday to ensure the smooth transition back to face-to-face learning.

“One of the adjustments was in the area of vaccination; to alert people that having received a vaccine does not mean they are protected from getting the virus, and they must continue to exercise all caution.

“We continue to emphasise that in our schools, if students, principals, teachers and all who work within these institutions are to remain safe, they have to stick to the basic things like keeping the distance, proper hygiene and the wearing of face masks,” Browne said, stressing that the appropriate breaks should also be taken in-between.

Students on the island have been working remotely since February based on a directive that was issued by the Ministry of Education in line with the Covid-19 infection rate at that time, and concerns that students were indirectly affected.

A week ago, students in grades 5 and 6, 4th and 5th forms, as well as those at the tertiary levels returned to in-person instruction to facilitate preparation for upcoming exams.

The director said it is essential for grade 6 students to be fully prepared to transition to 1st form after completing the Grade 6 National Assessment. The same applies to 5th formers and those attending the Antigua State College (ASC).

The goal for students in the lower level, the education official pointed out, is curriculum recovery.

“While we are in the remote learning modality, we know that there are gaps and other issues, and we are going to try as much as possible to play catch-up. The time may be too short to cover all the areas, but we will do our best to cover as much ground as we possibly can,” Browne said.

Director Browne also acknowledged the efforts of staff at the Board of Education and the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers, the National Parent Teachers Association, the Private Schools Association and others.

He said that while all parties do not always agree on different matters, the ministry is committed to working with every agency to ensure that students are able to attain the best possible education that the country can provide.

He also lauded the efforts of the private educational institutions that have not formed an association, and he encouraged parents whose children are enrolled in these schools to value the efforts of the administrations by fulfilling their financial obligations to these entities.