COVID spike forces St Ann schools to delay face-to-face classes


COVID spike forces St Ann schools to delay face-to-face classes

Monday, January 18, 2021

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OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Some schools here in St Ann which were approved for face-to-face classes have delayed their reopening because of the resurgence of the number of coronavirus cases in the parish.

Education Minister Fayval Williams, after assessments by education ministry officials and the Ministry of Health and Wellness, gave the green light for some schools to resume face-to-face classes to effectively prepare students for exit exams this year, which include the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC), City and Guilds, Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations (CAPE), National Council on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET) , and the Primary Exit Profile (PEP).

Brown's Town High School, which was scheduled to reopen today, informed parents and students on January 14 that physical classes will be off until it was safe to do so.

This decision came shortly after the Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton announced last week that the parish had the highest rate for the spread of the virus in the island.

Principal of Ocho Rios High School Marvin Clowson said, although his school has met the standard safety guidelines required by the Ministry of Education, and the institution is prepared for the resumption of classes, the school would only proceed once the number of COVID-19 cases decline. However, based on the current data on the virus, the start date for physical classes will be reviewed by the school's administration.

“We have the privilege as a board and as management to ensure that, while an opportunity is presented, we look at our individual situation. We were ready for reopening; however, upon thorough discussion and examination of the number of cases over the Christmas break, the large cohort of grade 11 students, and the number of communities that they come from, we had decided to not allow our students to come in on January 4,” he said.

“Now, as a team, we have again discussed whether to have them out on Monday (today); however, based on the report from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, we have decided to further assess the situation before resuming class,” Clowson told the Jamaica Observer.

Other schools said they were reconsidering plans for reopening as they receive more information on the virus.

Principal of York Castle High School Raymond Treasure said parents were consulted regarding the starting of classes, and that the decision to continue with classes remains, but that was not finalised.

Brown's Town Community College has been using the blended format to teach since summer 2020 for practical lab components to enable students to be fully immersed in their programme.

Navigating this uncertain period, the school's principal, Claudeth Haughton, said she is fully prepared to subdue to ensure the safety of students and staff.

“Our campuses were also made accessible to students who had limited or no technological resources at home. The minimal face-to-face approach has continued into the start of the calendar year in an effort to provide greater tutorial support in preparation for upcoming examinations. Should the college be required to fully revert to online classes we have all the facilities in place for more flexible delivery of synchronous and asynchronous sessions,” Haughton said.

For Joy Grey, a parent of a CSEC student who attends Brown's Town High School, the available Internet connection was still not good enough, as her child continues to struggle with final projects and classes.

Grey said she was disappointed after learning that her for child, whom she believes is a slow learner, classes had been cancelled.

“...It is definitely a challenge because we don't have proper Internet access, so at times she has to go out on the road to get a little coverage; and most times the connection is poor. If she was in school it would work out better, because she would be able to ask the teacher questions and interact with her classmates [and] they could have their study groups, so not being at school poses a problem,” she said.

The health ministry, meanwhile, has encouraged residents to comply with the protocols established to curb the spread of the virus. According to medical officer for health in St Ann Dr Tamika Henry, as of January 14 the St Ann's Bay Hospital isolation unit was at 68 per cent of its capacity.

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