The Catholic Board of Education (CBE) has received permission from the Ministry of Education to reopen its schools in New Providence on January 5, using the hybrid model – a combination of face-to-face and remote learning.
The hybrid model has been selected for CBE schools in New Providence as the Ministry of Health, through the Ministry of Education (MOE), has advised school officials that at this time, it is best to limit the number of people on campus, and recommends a daily population of 33 percent of the school’s enrollment, according to CBE officials.
“We are pleased that permission was granted for us to reopen,” said Claudette Rolle, director of Catholic Education.
Kindergarten and grade one children have been given priority and will be in for face-to-face every day as instruction for early learners is best facilitated using an in-person learning model,” said Rolle. “The attention span for these students is shorter, and trying to keep them engaged through a virtual medium where there are other distractions is challenging. These students also learn best through constructive play and by collaborating with peers – the physical environment allows this to happen more effectively.”
Sixth grade students, Rolle said, have been given priority for face-to-face learning as they will be sitting high school entrance examinations at the end of January.
Face-to-face will be staggered for the other grade levels.
“There is a small bit of anxiety because of the unknown, but we are confident that we have put all of the plans in place to keep our communities safe and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus,” said Rolle.
St. Francis de Sales School, Abaco, and Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy, Grand Bahama, will reopen using the face-to-face model for all grade levels on January 5.
“We are looking forward to receiving our students, teachers and paraprofessionals and ask for the patience and prayers of all of our stakeholders as we work to make the learning experiences academically, socially and emotionally fulfilling for our students. We also extend our gratitude to administrators, faculty, support staff, parents and guardians for navigating the educational transition over the past months,” said Rolle.
For those parents who are still uncomfortable sending their child to school, Rolle said the CBE will do its best to offer remote learning, but that the CBE will only be able to offer a limited amount of remote learning spaces at each grade level.
In preparation for operating schools in a COVID-19 environment, CBE schools have been equipped with more handwashing facilities, hand sanitizing stations, signs to remind all end-users of the protocols, and staggered dismissal time to avoid crowding at entry and exit points.
All CBE schools have developed and distributed reopening guides.
CBE, the largest private education system, has oversight for Aquinas College; Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Academy; St. Francis de Sales School; Sts. Francis & Joseph School; St. Thomas More; Xavier’s Lower School; and Every Child Counts.
Schools were given the green light to return to face-to-face instruction by Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis, who signed an amendment to the emergency order on December 4, as long as the school has received permission to do so from the MOE, after consultation with the Ministry of Health, and subject to conditions as may be imposed by the MOE.
Queen’s College Principal Reverend Henry Knowles said his institution has also received permission to reopen, but presently, will only have their Foundation Years (Nursery to grade two) return.
The other grade levels will remain in virtual school, for the time being.
“Our virtual school has been going extremely well with most students experiencing success while we maintain the high academic standards of the school,” said Knowles. “We are extremely proud of the outstanding results our students achieved in their BJC [Bahamas Junior Certificate] and BGCSE [Bahamas General Certificate of Secondary Education] examinations,” said Knowles.
“We found that our younger students, by virtue of their developmental level, were not performing as well as we would want in virtual school, so we were pressed to get them back on campus as soon as possible, where their teachers could work with them, and provide academic support during the formative early years.”
The principal said as community spread numbers continue to reduce in the country, that they would look at having their Primary Years students return to campus – “with cautious optimism.”
“Even as we return to campus for the remainder of the academic year, we will maintain virtual school for health-prone students and parents who are not comfortable with their children returning to face-to-face school,” said Knowles.
Kingsway Academy received permission for its high school students to take their fall examinations in person at the school’s campus. In a memo to parents, the school said, however, only 33 percent of the student population would be allowed on campus to take exams each day.
On the days a student has an exam, they are to arrive at the campus between 8 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. and report directly to their assigned exam rooms where they will take all exams and eat lunch. And students must be picked up on time to avoid congregating after school.
Anglican Central Education Authority
The Anglican Central Education Authority (ACEA), “in an abundance of caution”, will remain virtual through January 22, according to Italia Davies, ACEA director of education, as they once again endeavor to implement a plan to get students safely back in school.
“This will allow for a three-week period of protection against possible exposure due to travel and/or Christmas activities. We have applied to the Ministry of Education for approval to begin face-to-face instruction as we have all COVID-19 protocols in place. However, the current Ministry of Health requirements for all schools permits not more than 33 percent of the total student enrollment on campus at any given time. This will mean that once approval is received, we will institute a hybrid model where students will be in school some days for face-to-face instruction and at home other days for virtual instruction.”
Davies said parents with children with comorbidities are to ensure that a medical certificate has been submitted to the school’s office and placed on the child’s file.
The ACEA 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.
Windsor School at Albany and sister school at Old Fort Bay, The Meridian School off John F. Kennedy Drive, reopened the second week in November for in-person learning after receiving special permission to do so from the competent authority.
The 2019/2020 school year ended abruptly for in-person learning for students and teachers around the country after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in The Bahamas on March 15. Schools nationwide were shuttered to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year to contain the spread of COVID-19.