The Government-run primary and secondary schools are to be reopened June 9, 2020 officials in the Ministry of Education announced Thursday. A modified term three is expected to run until July 31, 2020. A one-month vacation will follow, with the new school year beginning September 8, 2020.
During a live call-in radio programme, Minister of Education Charles Kirnon, along with Acting Permanent Secretary Lyston Skerritt and Director of Education Dr. Gregory Julius updated the public on their phased approach to reopening local schools.
Minister Kirnon said COVID-19 had forced the need for adaptation to learning. He added that it was now necessary for the nation to learn how to live with the disease.
Early childhood centres are to remain closed until September 2020. The Brades Primary and Lookout Primary schools will use a shift system to educate children. Each school will be adapted to incorporate best practices as it relates to social distancing and proper hygiene.
The plan, officials announce, calls for only students in grades four and six to be on the compound. This will limit numbers to no more than 65 students per school. This number will also include at-risk students identified as those who have English as a second language, special needs or those in need of remedial assistance.
At the Montserrat Secondary School, students in third to fifth form and LEAP are to be the first set brought back to the campus in Salem. This number will not exceed 114 students, Skerritt said. No class will have more than 15 students in it. This is part of the best practice model being utilised across the OECS.
MSS officials will be communicating directly to parents and students on the reopening. Currently, they are assessing the transportation and school lunch needs of the students in the relevant forms. Food vendors will be expected to follow protocols of marking spaces to encourage social distancing and to operate only in designated areas.
Dr Julius shared that students are expected to follow social distancing guidelines on the school buses, which will not be able to carry as many people as the norm. There will also be increased access to hand sanitizer on buses and around the school campuses. Students are encouraged to bring their own water to school or fill water bottles at the fountains, rather than drink straight from them. Cleaners are to be more visible and expected to maintain frequently sanitise door handles and other areas which are heavily used.
The new system will be implemented in two-week cycles to monitor its effectiveness, how teachers and students adjust and to make changes as needed. All other students are to continue learning from home. Now that the island has come out of lockdown, teachers can now use additional styles of learning including more printed material, and radio and video if needed, the acting PS explained.
Currently teachers are using Google Classroom and WhatsApp to provide instructions for students while at home.
Dr Julius said the use of masks is not mandatory as currently there are not sufficient on island. However, students or staff who feel the need to wear one may do so. He added, that the ministry aims to procure more masks so children can have access to them.
Safety and security officers are expected to assist in ensuring students practice social distancing on campus. The ministry envisions more access to nurses to check the health of students and teachers.
In an effort to reduce contact of students and teachers to multiple spaces, teachers will come to the classroom rather than students moving around, especially at the secondary school.
PS Skerritt expressed appreciation to the Montserrat Football Association who has agreed to procure devices for students who are part of its sports programme. The Montserrat Red Cross, he said, has also committed to sponsor a number of laptops to help those who are disadvantaged. UNICEF, which is the United Nations agency focused on children and education has granted permission for the ministry to use the EC$125,000 allocated for other programming towards ensuring all students and teachers have access to learning tools.
Listen to the discussion on Montserrat Radio Echo – https://montserratradioecho.wordpress.com/2020/05/28/thursday-may-28-2020-education-sector-covid-19-update-panel-discussion-hosted-by-viona-alexander-smith/