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As COVID cases rise, several schools resort to virtual learning

Several schools on New Providence yesterday announced a temporary return to virtual learning as a result of COVID-19 cases on their campuses.

Stephen Dillet Primary School, St. Anne’s School, St. Augustine’s College (SAC) and Queen’s College (QC) are all impacted.

“Please be advised that, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases at the Stephen Dillet Primary School and, in our efforts to exercise an abundance of caution, all face-to-face instruction at that school has been suspended effective immediately,” the Ministry of Education said in a statement.

“Face-to-face instruction will resume for students of Stephen Dillet Primary School on Monday, May 16, 2022.

“During the week of May 9 to 13, 2022, the students of Stephen Dillet Primary School will receive their instruction via the virtual platform and students are to log into their classes every day to receive instruction.”

St. Anne’s School announced yesterday the Ministry of Health has advised that all staff and students quarantine as a result of cases on the campus.

Students will begin virtual lessons today and return to the campus on May 18, St. Anne’s Principal Nicolette Fountain-Archer advised in a letter to parents.

“It has come to our attention that several members of our school family have tested positive for COVID-19,” the letter read.

“The Ministry of Health and contact tracing team were contacted and apprised of the situation.

“As a result of the consultation, and out of an abundance of caution, we were advised to impose a seven-day quarantine for all staff and students at St. Anne’s School. This includes the school’s office.”

In a letter to parents yesterday, SAC Acting Principal Marici Thompson announced a suspension of in-person learning until May 19 because a staff member tested positive.

“I know this is not an ideal situation for our teachers and students but, out of an abundance of caution, we must take these immediate measures to safeguard our school population,” the letter read.

Thompson noted that 12th-grade students will continue their final exams as scheduled and in person.

Students and staff at QC will also return to virtual instruction for more than a week in an effort to ensure the health of students and teachers, and also to prevent students from missing national and end of year exams.

QC noted in a letter to parents that there were positive cases and a significant number of exposed students in the high school.

“We know that if this situation is left unattended, it could result in many students being unable to sit their BJC, BGCSE, and end of year examinations,” the school said.

It added, “Out of our desire to keep students and teachers healthy and to ensure that as many students as possible are able to write their important examinations, the high school will close for face-to-face learning and assume virtual learning, effective Wednesday, May 11, 2022, for seven school days.

“The school will reopen for face-to-face instruction on Monday, May 23, 2022.”

QC administrators also expressed concern regarding the primary school.

“Our findings have revealed additional positive cases within grades three and six,” a notice to parents read.

“As such, by following our campus health and safety procedures, we wish to advise that grades three and six will transition to full virtual learning, effective immediately, Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

“This urgent action is not only to safeguard the well-being of students but also their ability to write their GLAT examinations, which begin on May 23, 2022. Through virtual learning, students will have the opportunity to complete their GLAT preparations at home and safely return to write these examinations.”

The statement added, “A thorough reassessment of the COVID-19 status within grades three and six will be made on Thursday, May 19, 2022, after which, a further update will be provided.”

COVID-19 cases have been steadily increasing in recent weeks with the large majority of new cases on New Providence.

As of the latest update on Monday, there were 341 active cases in The Bahamas.

Thirty-one cases were recorded on that day alone, 28 of which were on New Providence and three on Grand Bahama.

This is the third year that COVID cases have threatened national examinations.

In 2020, examinations were postponed twice as a result of case numbers. In 2021, schools closed for several days in the lead-up to exams to better ensure the safety of students and their ability to sit the exams.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor assured that education officials are keeping a close eye on the current situation.

“We have demonstrated already in the past both sensitivity to allowing students the opportunity to get this credential … but at the same time, we also are sensitive about the health and safety of the students and also the whole issue of the integrity of the exams where it is not a case where half can do the exams today … we have to move lockstep with this,” Taylor said.

Taylor said a return to virtual lessons could be a possible step for more public schools, but only when absolutely necessary.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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