125 more schools to resume face-to-face classes

125 more schools to resume face-to-face classes

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

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ONE hundred and twenty-five more schools will be allowed to resume face-to-face classes, Education Minister Fayval Williams announced in Parliament yesterday.

She said the Government took the decision following favourable completion of the pilot reopening of 17 schools across nine parishes in November.

Along with the pilot schools, 22 others out of the selected 125 are now engaged in face-to-face classes, having been approved to start on December 7 and end on December 18, the minister advised the House of Representatives yesterday.

The additional schools include 66 secondary, and 59 primary institutions, which are considered low-risk and COVID-19-compliant, Williams said. This leaves the decision to be made on the reopening of 240 public schools.

Another nine schools are expected to be approved to reopen once final COVID-19 inspections are completed. The remaining 86 schools would begin on January 4, at the start of the new school term.

Williams said consultations have already taken place with the administrators of the selected institutions, and principals have started contact with parents.

“As we move forward and as the ministry continues its physical inspection of schools the number of schools that can resume face-to-face will increase,” she said. “We are not in normal times and schools will continue to use all the approaches to ensure that our students continue to learn during this pandemic,” Williams added.

She said that since October 5, when schools officially reopened using a mixed approach, 174,973 of the student population were engaged online. Another 12,389 were engaged using the audio-visual approach, 12,213 were engaged using the learning kit, while 48,672 were engaged using both print and broadcast media.

“All these numbers increased week by week as more and more students received their tablets,” she said.

Meanwhile, the education minister advised that the ministry has received 1,509 applications for the Own Your Own device initiative, which is supposed to provide 36,000 families with grants for laptops and tablets. The deadline for applications has been extended to the end of December, amidst issues with Taxpayer Registration and Student Registration Numbers and inputting of data.

Opposition spokesperson on education and Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Western Angela Brown Burke, meanwhile, reiterated concerns about the significant gaps that remain with access to devices and connectivity. She also suggested enabling better flexibility for schools to navigate the three learning approaches, along with physical opening. Brown Burke also said there were gaps in the analysis of the face-to-face pilot.

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