The Ministry of Education has been given the ‘green light’ from Cabinet to allow all schools in the territory to reopen for face-to-face classes using a phased approach.
However, no visitors or vendors will be permitted during the first phase. Deputy Premier and Education Minister, Dr Natalio Wheatley made that announcement late Wednesday during a scheduled live presentation.
He said Cabinet had conducted a special meeting on October 19 and decided that schools be granted permission on the basis that students adhere to the established social distancing guidelines.
“This is good news, the Ministry of Education has been given the green light to phase in all students in public schools by grade levels, in the way which best suits their circumstance and which will ensure the best for the students in attendance,” the minister said.
“I wish to state that while preparations for six-feet social distancing measures have been ongoing at schools, given the number of students in classes, it will not be possible to accommodate all students at the same time like we did prior to the pandemic,” he added.
Strict rules – (Wearing of masks, no visitors, no vendors)
Dr Wheatley also said all persons on school campuses including staff and students must wear either a mask or a face shield.
“Students are expected to come to on-site classes with a mask or shield and their personal bottle of hand sanitizer. Visitors to school campuses will be restricted. Each school will decide how visitors will be accommodated with the restricted guidelines.”
“It will be required for students to carry a pack lunch or parents should make the necessary arrangements for lunch to be delivered to the child at the school, as school vendors will not be available on campus during this phase,” the minister said.
Proposed phased dates revealed
Dr Wheatley further said the dates for the phases will be determined by the Chief Education Officer and the Environmental Health Division in consultation with himself.
He announced some of the reopening dates proposed thus far.
“Beginning on Monday the 26th of October, kindergarten, Grade One and Grade Two will be allowed in. Specific reporting days will be communicated by the respective principals of schools. Beginning on Monday the 9th of November, grades three through six and grades 10 through 12 will be allowed in and beginning on Monday the 4th of January, grades seven through nine will be allowed in,” he explained.
Blended/hybrid learning model
The phases will see the introduction of a blended/hybrid learning model of instruction in schools.
This model of learning involves face-to-face class sessions that are accompanied by online materials and activities.
Dr Wheatley also said that in some cases, schools will have to engage in a staggered schedule or shift system to ensure the best results.
“Even in the classroom, I wish to emphasize that schools should continue to engage students through a series of online interactive sessions, utilising Cisco, WebEx, Zoom Online Platform, Class Dojo, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Microsoft Teams and Google Hangout, combined with the Google Classroom emails and PowerSchool for sending and receiving assignments.”
He added: “Educators and parents of students with underlying conditions must seek and obtain permission from the principal to operate away from school for a portion or all of the period in which blended learning is taking place.”
Bus drivers to be trained
In the meantime, Dr Wheatley urged all parents to assume responsibility for transporting students to and from school between October 26 and November 6.
He said that during the aforementioned period, bus drivers will be undergoing a number of training sessions to incorporate the new socially distanced measures in their service.
The bus service will resume on November 9.
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