Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson yesterday said she was pleased to see the that the majority of schools scheduled to resume face-to-face instruction were safe and sufficiently prepared to welcome teachers, faculty and students, but said the “success or failure of the hybrid model is left to be seen.”
Wilson said after inspections by the union’s shop stewards yesterday, the BUT had concerns about the state of only one school.
“The only school on New Providence that we have a major concern about is Stephen Dillet [Primary School] at this time, because being an air-conditioned school without windows there is zero ventilation,” she said.
“So, the teachers have asked for humidifiers to be installed in the school and possibly within the medium-term get some UV lights that would assist with the air quality in the school.”
Most public schools on New Providence, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera resumed face-to-face instruction yesterday, using the hybrid model, after nearly a year of virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, there are several schools that did not resume in-person learning because of ongoing construction.
Last week, Wilson said if inspections this morning found school campuses to be unsafe, teachers would exercise a clause in their agreement and leave the classroom.
However, she said yesterday that for the most part, teachers were comfortable and satisfied with the safety precautions put in place.
“As you know, 16 schools did not resume face-to-face, so those students continue to learn virtually and the teachers continue over Zoom or whatever platform,” she said.
“On Abaco, they did not do face-to-face today. So, Abaco teachers are still working from home. Eleuthera seems to have gone off smoothly. On Exuma, I would have touched bases with most of the schools there and they went off smoothly.”
“All shop stewards in each school are using the BUT’s COVID-19 check list to ensure the health and safety protocols are in place,” she said. “The success or failure of the hybrid model is left to be seen.”
She said on Abaco, the repairs to schools are incomplete.
She added, “Stephen Dillet is a school that we will closely monitor here in New Providence. We will also continue to look at the progress of school repairs for the 16 schools to see when they would be ready.”
When contacted for comment, Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said some schools on Abaco did open, but could not say which ones.
While he did not give the number of how many public schools did not resume face-to-face instruction, he explained that there is a complex process that has to be followed.
“Some of it is construction,” Taylor said.
“Some of the schools have repairs that must be done. Some of it is because of staffing issues, which could be shortage of staff and some of it is also people working remotely who are uncomfortable coming in because they may have comorbidities or are concerned about their health. You know we have an aging teaching force.”
He added, “In some cases, as was the case with Anatol Rodgers High, the principal indicated that they had to make some adjustments with their time tabling and all of that to ensure that when students do come there isn’t a bunch of confusion on the campus.”
Anatol Rodgers High School is one of the schools that will resume in-person learning on Friday with grades seven and 10.