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VIDEO: Mandeville schools ready for partial resumption of classes

BY KASEY WILLIAMS
Sunday Observer writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 07, 2020

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — School administrators at four secondary institutions in this south-central town say they are ready to facilitate the partial resumption of classes starting tomorrow for students preparing to sit secondary level exit examinations in July.

School leaders at deCarteret College, Belair High, May Day High, and Manchester High all say they believe adequate preparations have been put in place, in line with safety protocols to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

The Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) exams will begin on July 13.

Last Thursday and Friday when the Jamaica Observer visited schools, administrators were in work mode as they ramped up activities in preparation for the return of some students and teachers.

Physical distancing markers were visible in all major sections of the schools along with hand sanitisers at strategic points. They also have thermometers which will be used for temperature checks of students and staff.

Principal of Belair High Lawrence Rowe told the Sunday Observer that all will be in place to accommodate just over 200 students who will sit the exams.

“We will be 100 per cent ready by Monday… the staff are here on campus preparing the place for the students. Some of the measures in place include the observance of social distancing. Classrooms have already been cleaned and sanitised with desks and chairs six feet apart. We have also had a series of meetings and consultations with students and their parents, giving them details as to what to expect,” he explained.

In addition to classrooms, the school's auditorium has been transformed to accommodate up to 100 students.

“Students were advised to come with at least two masks and hand sanitisers… we have installed our hand washing stations along a main corridor on the compound… We have 103 students in grade 11; 86 students in grade 12 and 48 students in grade 13, so it is a little over 200 students that will be here on Monday,” said Rowe.

“We went ahead and created a new timetable, taking into consideration the subjects and the number of students per subject that will be allowed in each classroom,” he added.

Principal of Manchester High, Jasford Gabriel, told the Sunday Observer that the school will be ready to facilitate students.

“We will be ready to receive the students on Monday. We have done whatever background work we need to do… our full population is 1,820 students, so for the phase that is going to be opened now, we expect to have roughly 500 students. In terms of space to satisfy the physical distancing, we would have mapped that out. We have [adjusted] our timetable and we have made the necessary arrangements in terms of safety and security,” Gabriel outlined.

“Students will only come on particular days when they have particular subjects, and so it will not require all our teachers to be here on any given day. We have worked through that kind of arrangement, so that the teachers will know which days they are required to be here, and to facilitate their students… apart from Mondays, we will have reduced numbers of students [attending classes],” he added.

Teachers working in practical areas will be required to wear face shields.

“We will be streaming our lessons as well from this facility. We will not encourage persons with underlying medical conditions to come out during this period,” said Gabriel.

Vice-principal of May Day High, Pauline Brown Hanley, told the Sunday Observer that an isolation area is in place to accommodate up to three students should they fall ill.

“In terms of the tuck shop, students will be [able] to order their lunch prior and practise physical distancing… Classrooms will be sanitised as students move in and out. We will have our custodians in place to keep the place clean. In case of a child denoted with a high fever we have an isolation room, our nurse's quarters, is very small, so we have used a classroom as an isolation area,” she said.

“We have areas where three classrooms have now been [adjusted] to one, because we have opened the partitions to accommodate physical distancing. We have approximately 315 students from fifth form to upper six form,” she added.

Principal of deCarteret College Prim Lewis disclosed that the institution had been implementing safety measures even before the first case of COVID-19 in Jamaica.

“Before COVID-19 actually came to Jamaica we had been working with the Ministry of Education to develop an action plan as to what we would do to prepare the school in the event of COVID-19. We all know that (when) the lockdown came, we were thrust into distance learning. We have put in additional measures as mandated by the [MoE] and the Ministry of Health and Wellness,” said Lewis.

“At the end of each corridor, we have a sanitisation station with a sensor. We have sent out a schedule to students with their assigned classrooms, so when they come on Monday they will know exactly where they are to go,” she added.

An isolation area has been setup and additional measures put in place to accommodate students at the sickbay.

There are approximately 439 students across fifth form to upper six form at the institution.

“We are not taking anything for granted, even where the children normally sit outside when they wait to be picked up by their parents, we have marked where they are to sit,” said Lewis.

Staff members were kept busy on Thursday making signs, and metal cases for sanitisers and soap dispensers.