With public schools on New Providence, Abaco, Exuma and Eleuthera reopening for face-to-face instruction on Monday, Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said yesterday that some students will go to school Monday and Wednesday, while others will go to class Tuesdays and Thursdays.
However, he said each school’s administration team will tailor rules to best suit their situation and that parents must contact their school’s administrator to be advised which days their students must attend class.
“The individual schools have developed their plans as to which grades will come in on which days and what number of schools will be accommodated,” Taylor said.
“The Ministry of Health has said that they didn’t want more than 50 percent of enrollment to return to the school at a time. That’s part, too, to control the potential spread of the virus. So, each school would then communicate with its stakeholders, the parents and the students, to advise them as to what it is that they need to do and need to know, so that they can comply with the measures that we put in place.”
Taylor said in some cases large classes will be split with some students coming on one day, while others go to class the next day.
“With hybrid, this means you’ll receive your instruction in two settings,” Taylor said.
“Sometimes you’ll receive it on the campus and other times you’ll receive it remotely.”
He said on days when the student is not in school, some may continue their lesson online, while others may be given their lessons for virtual days, which must be completed for when they return to the campus.
Parents will be required to drop their children off at the gate and students must wear masks and practice social distancing.
Some schools have encouraged parents to prepare and package lunch for their students to avoid lines and the possibility of a spread at lunch stations.
Despite the majority of the school year being spent online and outside of the classroom, students will be required to wear uniforms.
“We understand that some people may have challenges with procuring new uniforms and so wearing an old uniform is not a problem as long as it fits properly,” he said.
“So, we encourage people, if the uniform is still wearable, no holes, no tears, that if you couldn’t get a new one it’s not a problem if they wear one that is not quite new.”
However, he added a child not having a uniform at all shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, saying, “The first and foremost important thing is to provide an education. So, we want people to wear uniforms because there are many reasons why uniforms are worn. But we don’t want that to be the deciding factor on a student coming to school or not coming to school.”
He advised those who do not have new or old uniforms to contact the school administrators to determine what sort of assistance can be given.
Some schools have decided to allow students to wear their physical education T-shirt and pants.
Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) President Belinda Wilson has called for a “clear plan” on school health and safety procedures that will allow for a safe return to the classrooms on islands that are still practicing virtual learning.
Taylor said teachers’ concerns are being addressed and that measures put in place are only there for the duration of the pandemic.
“In December, all schools, primary schools and secondary schools brought students back in to do assessments and so on,” Taylor said.
“So, it’s not like this is completely new. It’s not like people haven’t had school before. It’s the mention of what you do for COVID-19 and so we’ve already had some instances to test that. So, of course you’re in another phase, there will be anxiety with people still not sure how people are going to respond. But this is one of those things where you only know that you do it well once you do it. It’s just like so many other things in life. So, it’s nothing to fear.
“I think the most important thing is people have to have the spirit of wanting to solve that problem collectively. So, you have a commander, you have a principal, you have a leader and a plan is set out. You’re asked to follow the plan. Let’s follow the plan as much as we can.
“If, in following the plan, we realize that there’s a problem, you can just go to your supervisor and say, ‘When we tried this, this was the problem, maybe we can do it this way’ and we’d work it out.”