Education

Private institutions take to the virtual platform

Days into the start of their 2021/2022 academic year, Nassau Christian Schools (NCS) kiboshed its week-to-week in-person hybrid learning schedule, opting for its students to go fully onto the virtual platform.

NCS, which opened to instruction on August 16, reversed course on Tuesday, August 24, as other private institutions announced they would be opening with full virtual classes.

The Catholic Board of Education (CBE), the largest private educational system in The Bahamas, announced on Tuesday, August 24, that it would engage in remote learning at all grade levels, pre-kindergarten through grade 12, for the opening of the academic year, following the Ministry of Education’s guideline that all public schools in The Bahamas will begin the school year with a virtual learning format today.

CBE schools, Aquinas College; Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy; St. Francis de Sales School; St. Cecilia’s School; Sts. Francis & Joseph School; St. Thomas More School; Xavier’s Lower School; and Every Child Counts will reopen virtually for full day classes on September 6.

Claudette Rolle, CBE director of education, said the decision to reopen fully virtual was made in consultation with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health, based on the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases locally, especially among the younger population.

“CBE recognizes that the face-to-face model is the preferred and most effective means of teaching,” said Rolle in a press release. “As soon as we can safely do so, we will resume hybrid and face-to-face learning.”

In preparation for CBE students’ return to face-to-face learning, she said all classrooms have been configured to adhere to the physical distancing policy outlined by the Ministry of Education. Class sizes have been reduced and seats are limited.

Queen’s College (QC) will also reopen with all grade levels using full online learning, with an assessment to be made in mid-September to confirm a safe return to campus, according to principal Reverend Henry Knowles.

“We are aware that many families with young students are challenged with virtual classes, therefore, we will seek permission from the Ministry of Education to allow Foundation Years to have on-campus classes. Once approved, parents will be informed of the additional health and safety measures and arrangements that will be implemented for Foundation Years to return to campus,” said Knowles.

St. Augustine’s College (SAC) also begins school on the online platform on September 6, according to a letter to parents signed by Principal Sonja Knowles. She said, “The Plus portals platform will be activated during registration week, August 30 to September 2, at which time, students will receive information with details on class programs and procedures.

“Whereas we prefer the face-to-face model for school, we recognize that the safety of our students and teachers is of utmost importance,” said Knowles. “We will review the situation at the end of September.”

She said only students whose fees are paid or whose parents/guardians have entered a payment arrangement with the school will have access to the portal and classes.

The Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA) will also be reopening school virtually for all students from Monday, September 6 through Friday, September 8, according to Italia Davies, ACEA director of education.

“Unfortunately, unlike last year, we cannot allow ELC to attend face-to-face classes as we now know that young children are susceptible to the virus and have succumbed. We will review this decision by October 6, and will advise of the way forward no later than Friday, October 8.

“We know that this situation is not the ideal and what anyone wants, however, we consider safety and the preservation of life as paramount. We strongly encourage all parents to get vaccinated and to allow their children 12 years and older to be vaccinated also,” said Davies.

Suncher Outten, the mom of two children entering second grade and sixth grade, said she is not thrilled about her children going back to school virtually. However, she said she realizes that the country is in the midst of a pandemic and said the rising number of COVID cases in the country is alarming. She is more concerned about her children’s health and safety than anything else.

“In-person learning is definitely my preferred choice of schooling, especially as my children are still in the foundation building years. However, they have adjusted to the times we now find ourselves in, and together (through God’s grace) we’ve gotten better at online schooling.”

Outten said it is fortunate she is able to work from home and has been able to be there to supervise her children, but she acknowledges it has not been an easy task – especially in the beginning.

Schools were shuttered in March 2020, when the first COVID-19 case was identified in The Bahamas.

“I am hopeful that in time and with everyone doing their part, COVID will become a thing of the past and children will be able to return back to school in person … perhaps a little more computer/technology savvy than before,” said Outten.

Charmaine Major, mother of Don and Chaz Major, said she is OK with her children going onto the online platform, as she is a cautious person. If the situation was different, she said she would have preferred face-to-face learning.

“It is better to be in front of a teacher learning because I feel the teacher can really get to know the students better, there are no class interruptions due to technical issues, and in my opinion, students just learn better.”

Major said her children have experienced power cuts and internet interruptions during the previous school year that posed a problem. But at the same token, she said educators are doing their best.

“Anytime I needed assistance, I received it from the school,” she said.

Her son, Don, who is entering 11th grade, said virtual learning was an adjustment and confusing at first, but he said he has now gotten the “hang of it”.

“I do feel that I learn better and am more focused face-to-face, but I have adapted to virtual.”

He likes the virtual platform because he said he does not have to wake up early to get dressed to go to school and does not have to wait long after school for his parents to pick him up. Because he is already home, he said he can get his homework done immediately.

The good thing about attending school in-person he said was getting to see friends, socializing and participate in study groups.

Don’s younger brother Chaz, who is going into eighth grade, also has adapted to virtual learning.

“At first, for me, virtual was weird and different because I had to really adapt to it. I went from face-to-face primary school to virtual junior school.”

Chaz said he likes virtual and face-to-face learning.

“I do feel I learn better in person with my teacher and I understand better, and there are no technical issues with face-to-face. I used to get frustrated when my computer malfunctioned or current or internet cut off, then I would miss my class and have to catch up. So, for now, because of COVID-19, and safety measures, I have to do virtual learning, and I’m OK with it. I feel I have adapted a lot better to it.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis in his National Address on Sunday, August 22, encouraged parents and guardians to get their eligible children vaccinated, as the Pfizer vaccine, available to everyone over the age of 12, is now in-country.

“The sooner a large number of appropriate-aged students and their families are fully vaccinated, the sooner we can return to safe face-to-face learning, team sports, extracurricular programs and youth programs,” said Minnis. “We must get our children and youth back to school safely and as quickly as possible.”

During his address, the prime minister said during the pandemic, there has been an educational loss and gap for some children and that they have to get them back to school to give them the education that they deserve and need.

“We need to get our children back to school and back to other youth programs as part of their socialization, emotional and mental health, and their well-being,” he said.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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