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Happy Grove High resumes face-to-face classes, despite challenges

Observer correspondent

Monday, January 11, 2021

HECTORS RIVER, Portland — Happy Grove High will resume face-to-face classes this morning after meeting COVID-19 safety standards required by the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

However, Principal Monique Grant-Facey told the Jamaica Observer that one of the school's greatest challenges is reaching all enrolled students, as many of them have been lost “in the virtual space”.

“They cannot afford a device or do not have access to any Internet. Of our 1,200 students we are seeing just over 500 in the virtual space. Most of our students come from the lower end of the socio-economic background, and that is a challenge for them,” Grant-Facey said.

“As a school we sent out a call to see if we can get assistance for them, and from that call a number of persons have responded and we have been able to help a number of our students — not a great number but we have been able to supply 31 of our students with devices and I have 14 to be delivered this week. And as we continue to get more sponsorship we will see how we can help more of our students,” the principal said.

“Our past students from all over have answered the call. We still see where persons are contributing and we will still continue to get the devices for our students, as we collected just under $1.8 million before the end of December. The virtual space is not going anywhere and is going to be with us as we go through this term, and we have to find the way to get our students online” she said.

The principal said one of the students who the school has been unable to contact is an exam candidate.

“He was from Portland but has moved to Seaforth in St Thomas, and we have lost contact with him and his father. He has not registered for examination[s] and was basically our responsibility. We have asked the police to assist and still have not made contact. We were hoping the father would have reached out to us as he has not come in since September and he has not done his diagnostic test for City and Guilds exams, nor registered for CSEC,” she said.

According to the principal, she has more than 46 grade 11 students who have not registered for exams, and for one reason or another their parents cannot afford to pay for those exams.

“We have been using various social media platforms but still not getting through,” Grant-Facey said.

Meanwhile, she commended the school's lab technician, Tristan Neufville, for training more than 600 teachers and students to us Google Classroom which, she said, has been working well for them.

“We are prepared for the face-to-face from the NCEL [National College for Educational Leadership] training in virtual instructional leadership. We were ready before we got our first visit from the Ministry of Health and Wellness and we got a satisfactory rating, as we have been ready from last year and we keep the place in a state of readiness.

“Our grades 11, 12 and 13 students want to come back for face-to-face as they want to see the teachers. We invited some of them to come in small groups in December to do SBAs, so we have been testing the system. They want to be at school and the new students as well. We expect to see about 1,000 students when we open on Monday,” she said.