By Kadeem Joseph
Despite their vaccination status, students in grade six along with fourth and fifth formers will be allowed back in the classroom for face-to-face learning as of Monday, October 18th, based on the latest decision made by the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Director of Education Clare Browne, who was speaking during Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing, explained that following widespread consultations with education insiders, 90 percent of those involved agreed that all students should be given an opportunity to return to the classroom in some form.
However, while this was the recommendation of the ministry, the Cabinet decided against it under the advice of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Rhonda Sealey-Thomas, and after engaging in “long and intense” discussions.
“The CMO would have indicated that the epidemiological situation of state didn’t allow her to support the position of having all students of all schools, vaccinated or unvaccinated students, returning to face-to-face instruction at this time,” Browne explained.
Browne also highlighted the impact the pandemic has been having on students, especially 5th formers.
“Current 5th formers would have been in this pandemic for over 20 months; they were third formers when the pandemic started … they have been severely impacted,” he said noting that there are also “a good number” of subjects that are practical, requiring students to be present in class.
Browne explained that while schools for students with special needs have been allowed to operate, a case has been made to allow specific students, whose needs are such that they “cannot operate” without the guidance of a teacher within the primary and secondary school system to also return to classes starting on Monday as well.
He also explained that the Covid-19 protocols remain in place for schools and principals are now expected to make the necessary changes to accommodate students amid these regulations.
The director of education said the hope is that Cabinet will review who will be allowed to engage in face-to-face learning on the week of the 29th of October, around midterm.