As all schools – private and public – reopen today across the country, to ensure safety all around, a school principal is imploring that parents monitor their children, be vigilant and responsible, and not send their child to school if they are sick.
Joye Ritchie-Green, principal at Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy (MSSCA), said if parents know their child is not feeling well, even with something as simple as a scratchy throat, they should keep them home.
“We will do everything in our power to make sure your child does not miss out on anything,” said Ritchie-Green in her message to parents. “[The] keyword here is being responsible as parents and following the protocols.”
Ritchie-Green’s advice comes as schools resume in-person learning after beginning the academic year in a virtual learning environment due to a fourth wave of COVID-19.
“I feel we had a really good system in place last term – our primary school was face to face every day and our high school followed the hybrid learning model. So, I feel we will be successful in keeping everyone safe. I am very happy we are reopening because the children need to be back in school.”
MSSCA is scheduled to host a parent-teacher association (PTA) meeting on January 27 to specifically address COVID-19. Ritchie-Green said medical professionals will lead the session.
“We will continue to share information with our parents that will help them understand COVID-19 and how to particularly handle the emotional and mental part of it. Students have access to teachers every day, teachers have office hours to give students any additional help they may need,” said the principal.
Tiffany Glass, principal at Sts. Francis & Joseph School, said their lower primary students will benefit tremendously from being back on campus. And that they are confident that their “stakeholders” will continue to be responsible and follow safety procedures and protocols.
“We are in the midst of a pandemic that will be with us for a little while. We must learn how to operate within this state but as safely and wisely as we can,” said Glass.
All Catholic Board of Education (CBE) schools in New Providence resume the hybrid model today. According to CBE officials, St. Francis de Sales (SFDS) in Abaco and MSSCA in Grand Bahama will open fully face to face because of their enrollment numbers. SFDS, which was destroyed by Hurricane Dorian in 2019, has rebuilt its primary school and has an enrollment of 88. MSSCA has a 282-student population.
Leonardo Soncaire, principal at SFDS, one of only two schools that will reopen fully face to face, said he encourages everyone to adopt a community mindset when dealing with the pandemic.
“Be each other’s keeper and we will get through this. Do what must be done to keep you and others safe. This is a unique time for all of us,” said Soncaire.
“I feel quite confident that we are up to the task of engaging face-to-face learning. We did so quite successfully last semester and will continue to do so this semester. The driving force behind this confidence is in the fact that we are a bit more informed about COVID-19 and its various variants than we were at the start of the pandemic. We know what we need to do to stay safe, and it is up to each of us to follow through.”
He said over the course of the semester that he knows there will be moments of anxiety and stress but that everyone must remember that they can get through it but that they must do so together.
“Our staff was involved with sessions which covered dealing with COVID-19 as educators, as well as an informative session on the nature of COVID-19 led by Dr. Francis Williams. As a Catholic Christian school, we also sought to prayerfully discern our calling as educators during these difficult times,” he said.
Claudette Rolle, director of Catholic education, said the protocols CBE schools put in place will continue to be those mandated by the Ministry of Health and Wellness. And that, due to the infectious nature of the Omicron variant, they will continue to encourage staff and parents to more thoroughly go through the daily health screenings provided by the school nurse prior to leaving home.
“It should also be noted that CBE classrooms do not rely on AC (air conditioning) but each classroom has excellent ventilation – which has been proven to reduce how much the virus is in the air.”
Rolle said the key to working effectively in the pandemic is to remain calm and consistent in protocols.
“We have leant not to panic as this only heightens the anxiety of others in the school community,” said Rolle.
In light of the highly contagious Omicron virus, and with the knowledge that face-to-face learning is the most effective learning model – especially for primary school students – Rolle said they will be more diligent in ensuring that the environment is more than sufficiently sanitized, so that everyone can remain safe.
“We want to physically connect with our students in a safe and healthy environment. We want to see their smiles, hear their stories and give them opportunities to collaborate and engage with their classmates spiritually, socially, intellectually and in person.”
As for parents who are still anxious about their children attending in-person classes, the CBE director said they encourage parents to work closely with school nurses who will assist in alleviating health fears and concerns. She said counseling services are also available to all CBE students and teachers.
Rolle said there are “numerous steps” schools can take to significantly reduce risk to students, teachers, staff and their families, and that the CBE intends to enforce them.
“All of the necessary precautions as they relate to screening, sanitizing, appropriate mask wearing and physical distancing will be enforced. Classes will continue to operate as cohorts, and the majority of disciplines will be facilitated in the same classroom.”
Rolle extended an invite to parents, who are concerned, to contact their school. She said the CBE is there to support them and their child(ren).
“Our primary objective is to facilitate the teaching and learning of our scholars in a safe environment. We know that in-person learning is the best option. Face-to-face instruction is essential for a child’s development. CBE strongly believes that, through implementation of best practices, according to the latest public health information, and with God, our protector as our guide, CBE schools will be able to safely keep our schools open.”