Private schools ditch hybrid/blended re-openings

The Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA) has adopted the Ministry of Education’s (MoE) model of a fully virtual platform for the reopening of Anglican schools for the new academic year, while a number of private institutions that had opted for a hybrid start to the year have changed course and will reopen fully virtually as COVID-19 confirmed cases surge.

In a communication from Italia Davies, ACEA director of education, the authority which has responsibility for St. John’s College, St. Anne’s School, Bishop Michael Eldon School on Grand Bahama and St. Andrew’s Anglican School on Exuma, has set September 14 as its anticipated reopening date.

Students from Pre-K through grade 12 will engage in online learning using the Google Classroom and Google Meet platforms. It’s a model the authority said is subject to change, depending on the advice and directives from the MoE in conjunction with the Ministry of Health.

MoE schools reopen virtually on September 21, with 100 percent online learning, and with a transition to hybrid/blended learning on October 5, if circumstances permit.

In its communication, the ACEA said it has always followed the ministry’s lead in times of national crisis, emergencies, storms, hurricanes and even more so now in this pandemic.

“We respect their decision-making process as the competent authority in the education arena. Further, we are deeply sensitive to, and cognizant of, the need not to put our parents, students and teachers at undue risk – consequently, we fall in line with the protocols mandated by the competent authority,” read the release.

ACEA officials said it is their desire to return to the physical environment and hold face-to-face classes, but they remain in synchronized lockstep with the MoE until the protocols are lifted and the all clear is given.

St. Augustine’s College (SAC), the Catholic Board of Education (CBE), Kingsway Academy (KA) and Nassau Christian Schools (NCS) officials have all made about-face decisions, scrapping any form of in-person instruction.

St. Augustine’s College

SAC, in a reversal of its in-classroom decision, in its most recent communication to parents, said the school year will begin with online instruction, with the opening date remaining the same, September 21.

SAC Principal Sonja Knowles said in the letter, dated August 20, that the reversal is due to the current situation with the high rate of COVID-19 transmission.

As of Saturday, August 29, there were 2,135 cases of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.

New Providence led the nation with 1,318 cases, followed by Grand Bahama with 547 cases.

Abaco had 67 cases; Bimini had 53 cases; the Berry Islands, 15; Exuma, 19; Cat Island, eight; Eleuthera, five; Inagua, eight; Acklins, four; Crooked Island, two; and Andros one; the location of 88 cases was listed as pending.

The total recovered cases were 782. There were 1,293 active cases, 77 hospitalized cases, 43 deaths and seven non-COVID-related deaths; 11,037 tests had been completed. These included tests conducted by private facilities.

SAC will use the Plus Portals program, which Knowles said has been “update/revised” and that only school-based student emails will be used to access the portal. And that only students with fees that are paid, or whose parents/guardians have entered a payment arrangement with the school, will have access to the portal and classes.

Catholic Board of Education

Claudette Rolle, director of Catholic Education, said although the CBE had planned to open schools using in-person instruction on September 21, due to the high rate of COVID-19 transmission in The Bahamas at this time, all CBE schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year with virtual or remote learning on September 9.

In a letter dated August 16, Rolle said schools will issue schedules, orientation dates, meeting times, procedures for the collection of workbooks and other pertinent information on Monday, August 24. And that the schools’ guidance counselors and nurses will also reach out to parents and students to advise of the plans for social and emotional support and maintaining good health.

CBE, the largest private education system, has oversight for 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.

Rolle said only students whose first term fees are paid in full or whose parents or guardians have entered into an arrangement with the school and met their initial commitment will have access to CBE’s Google Classroom.

Rolle reminded parents that in the virtual learning environment, the first few weeks of the new academic year will be important for children. She said faculty will be working tirelessly to address learning gaps and introduce new concepts. And that participation is paramount, so that valuable teaching time is not lost when they make the transition to in-person learning.

“Regardless of the mode of instruction, we remain faithful to our high academic standards and we are determined to keep our students engaged, learning and connected during this initial remote phase. Additionally, we remain committed to commencing face-to-face or in-person learning as soon as it is determined safe to return to campus,” said Rolle.

Kingsway Academy

Kingsway Academy has altered its plans for reopening to September 14, instead of September 7, to complete preparation for remote learning in both the high school and the elementary school.

In its communication to parents/guardians, the school attributed scrapping its ambitious face-to-face experience in their lower school, and hybrid learning experience for their high school, to the increase in COVID-19 infections on New Providence and the second lockdown.

“We are finding it necessary to protect our students and staff, and therefore, it is advisable that we continue the remote learning experience at least for the first term of school until the spread of the virus is under control,” read the communication signed by Gregory V. Williams, acting director, on August 14.

Kingsway will utilize the Google Classroom platform for its elementary school. The high school will continue with Edmodo and Zoom.

Nassau Christian Schools

NCS, in its communication to parents, said it has reverted to six weeks of virtual school with a start day on September 14, which school officials said is due to the COVID-19 setback.

According to the communication signed by Lisa Miller, acting principal, their official learning platform will be Google Meets Classroom and students will be engaged following the class schedule for the full school day. And only students who appear on the official class roster, cleared by the business office, will be allowed to access the virtual learning platform and participate.

NCS officials noted that once the threat of COVID-19 is under control, they will revert to earlier learning models advertised.

Queen’s College

QC had initially announced it would go through a phased reopening from September 1 to 7, offering face-to-face instruction for Foundation Years, blended instruction for Primary Years and blended instruction for high school, but reversed its decision.

A letter to parents/guardians, signed by Principal Reverend Henry Knowles, said QC would reopen school in September using a full remote learning environment in all school sections.

“In our recently published road map for the safe reopening of school 2020-2021, we highlighted the instructional model that each section of Queen’s College would follow, was contingent on the current state of the country in relation to COVID-19. Since the release of this document, The Bahamas is experiencing an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases and we are under national lockdown protocols, which may extend for several weeks. Based on these ongoing conditions, we will now reopen school in September, using a full remote learning environment in all school sections,” said Knowles.

He informed parents that with the new direction, Google Classroom will be their main online instructional platform for all sections of the school. All students are expected to receive a “qccomet” email account, along with efficient communication and online support. He said an academic technology coordinate will oversee training and support for staff, students and parents in order to successfully implement and use Google Classroom.

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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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