Munro College implements strict regime for boarders


Munro College implements strict regime for boarders

Principals says school needs more teachers as it institute a blended learning system

Staff reporter

Friday, January 08, 2021

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POTSDAM, St Elizabeth — Munro College has advanced plans to accommodate students for boarding as the institution prepares to resume face-to-face classes with fewer student next Monday when it officially reopens.

Principal of Munro College Mark Smith told the Jamaica Observer that boarding will be permitted at the school under a strict regime.

“We will be opening on January 11… Boarding will be permitted. We have come up with a very strict regime in terms of managing students. They [will be] temperature checked three times a day. We have hired additional individuals in terms of monitoring students,” said Smith.

“We have done an entire overhaul of our system to ensure that we focus a lot on monitoring students to help our nurses become very proactive in [checking] our students every time they enter our dining room, canteen, before they leave the dorm, upon entering the dorm and at night they [will] be tested again,” Smith added.

He underscored that the COVID-19 protocols will extend to the dormitories.

“It is a very rigorous system and we have restricted access to the dormitories. Usually parents could request for their child to come home every weekend or so, that has been restricted in terms of parents actually entering the dormitories,” stressed Smith.

He told the Observer that based on an assessment done during the sitting of exams last year, the institution is prepared.

“We have rearranged the entire protocol in terms of accessing the school that where possible we reduce visitation on the campus. These and other measures had proven very effective when we had opened last June to facilitate our exam students. It is very important that we put at the centre of our entire programming and reopening efforts, the safety of our students and staff,” said Smith.

In the meantime there have been mixed reactions from parents about the resumption of face-to-face classes at the St Elizabeth-based institution.

“There is as expected a great degree of anxiety regarding the whole returning to school in general by parents. Some have explicitly stated that they will not be sending their child back, while there are others who have been lobbying for us to reopen. In fact, we have more parents lobbying for us to reopen than those who are objecting,” declared Smith.

With a blended approach needed to facilitate students, Smith said the school has inadequate teachers.

“One of the great challenges is to both facilitate online learning while at the same time facilitating face-to-face learning, because we just don't have the numbers in terms of teachers, so we are presently finalizing a plan that will support our online learning, while at the same time being able to deliver the face-to-face classes,” he said.

According to Smith, the school has maintained communication with parents with some expressing financial challenges.

“There are the challenges regarding fees, but the focus for me has been ensuring that we listen to them [parents]. We have been having a series of consultations since April [and] even since the beginning of this term.

“We meet with our parents every single month. We have virtual consultations to keep them in the loop of the overall developments that are occurring to get their feedback,” declared Smith.

The principal said the institution has been creative in renovating areas to facilitate students who meet the guidelines of the Ministry of Health.

“When the Ministry of Health [officials] would have come in last August to evaluate our programme, they noted that we could no longer retain the almost 250 pre-boarders that we had. The numbers would have to be substantially reduced, so we were down to about 160.

“We have been very creative as an administration and staff to ensure that we were able to convert some of our other spaces that we had into boarding accommodation that would meet the requisite standard and as a result of that we have a situation in which we are up now to 200,” said Smith.

“What is critical for us is to reduce the likelihood that any child is exposed to this virus to ensure that we are consistent in terms of our compliance with the requisite standards while ensuring that most students aren't disadvantaged by something outside of their control,” added the principal.

Smith said some students are stranded overseas including in the United Kingdom, which Jamaica has imposed a travel ban on flights until January 31.

“We have some students who will not return, because the parents have not decided to send them back. In fact, we have several overseas in the United Kingdom, they have written to us [because] they are on lockdown…We have several in the United States also,” he said.

“We are very critical about [doing] a very detailed screening of students before they get back into boarding. If they have travelled for instance they cannot [board] unless they have completed the mandatory quarantine period…We try to take every precaution that is possible as a school family to ensure that no one is exposed to the virus,” he added.

With a population of almost 700 students and 63 teachers, the school has planned to continue a shift towards digital classrooms.

“We will be also facilitating online classes through the learning management system… A big part of it has been our shift towards a digital classroom and this is something that we had embraced this concept prior to COVID. We had looked at integrating technology into teaching and learning in a way that has not been previously widespread in the country,” Smith said.

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