By virtue of starting their academic year earlier than other institutions, Nassau Christian Schools (NCS) unofficially jumpstarts graduation season, and is on track to host graduation ceremonies at the end of the month.
“We anticipate it (graduation) to be on May 29,” Vernay Mills, NCS administrative assistant, told The Nassau Guardian.
Mills said what they’re still debating is how the graduation ceremonies will look.
“We are putting a few ideas out there to the students and our administration to see exactly how we want that, because we want it to be fun, and something memorable – good memorable and not bad memorable – because 12th grade graduation looks different from sixth grade, and sixth grade looks different from kindergarten,” said Mills.
NCS’ graduation ceremonies will be the first in the era of COVID-19, with social distancing in place and any gathering of more than 10 people banned.
NCS will graduate approximately 60 twelfth grade students, 90 sixth grade students and about 125 kindergarten students.
“We have to do something that’s age appropriate for all of them,” said Mills. “So, we want to make it as nice as possible, with of course social distancing being adhered to. We’re going to figure something out,” she said.
As for every other school in the country, graduation for NCS during the global coronavirus pandemic is uncharted waters. Mills said whatever their final decision is, it will be made with the students in mind.
For the 12th grade graduates, she said, completing 14 years of school should be celebrated; and that graduating sixth grade is a milestone that has students moving into the next chapter of their life – seventh grade, which she said can be a tough transition.
Under ordinary circumstances, NCS students would be preparing to be let out of school for the summer, having started their curriculum earlier than other schools, with teaching time normally scheduled to close around May 15. Due to the interruption in the school year with the global pandemic, the administration made the decision to continue teaching through May 27 to make up for the time lost time by their students.
Schools nationwide were shuttered after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in-country on March 15.
The country is under a state of emergency until the end of May, with weekday curfews and weekend lockdowns in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease.
The Bahamas had 92 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 11 deaths, 31 recovered cases, eight hospitalized cases and 50 active cases yesterday; and 1,539 tests have been completed.
Worldwide, there were 3,813,123 confirmed cases and 267,233 deaths.
With the suspension of in-person, face-to-face learning, schools transitioned to a virtual platform to continue the education of students. Mills said it took NCS a week to activate its online learning once face-to-face, in-classroom education was suspended.
“Initially when we started, we started by any means necessary like most schools. But we were able to get a Google [Classroom] platform, specifically tailored for us, so that is in effect now, and that seems to be working well,” she said.
NCS engaged its teachers and staff in a virtual training to prepare them for the new method of teaching which is being utilized through the end of the school year.
“We’re going to go a bit longer with our classroom contact time simply because the initial week we would have been out we would not have had contact with everyone, for various reasons … no phone or no computer and that sort of stuff. So, once we got that all sorted out we would have been a week deep. When we would have had to break for the COVID pandemic, we would have just about completed our curriculum so that puts us a step ahead. That being said, at the time that we had the break, it would have been a lot of review for external exams, mocks and all of those sorts of stuff. Those exams were not online, and so that of course had its challenges. The transition from physical classroom to virtual classroom had its challenges, but it was a success for us.”
Mills said the extra nine school days added onto their academic year will be used to make up the time lost by students in the first week of forced closure. The extra time will entail teaching time and not just review. She said as the educators teach students, they will also be testing them and that testing will also look different in the virtual classroom as opposed to the physical classroom.
“We have to take a number of grades to get a true grade, because the parents will inevitably help the student more [with them at home], so we have to be cognizant of that, and so because of that, we’re going to take a number of grades and kind of figure out a proper average,” said Mills.