Teachers not surprised by extended closure of schools

Teachers not surprised by extended closure of schools

Thursday, March 26, 2020

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THE Government's decision on Monday to extend the COVID-19 school closure to the end of the Easter term came as no surprise to many of the nation's teachers.

In fact, several of them, to whom the Jamaica Observer spoke on Monday before the prime minister's press conference, indicated that they did not foresee returning to the classroom until late April.

Schools have been closed since March 13 in a move expected to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus on the island. To date, there have been 25 confirmed cases and one death.

“From all the signals around us, it does appear that an extension of the closure of schools is inevitable at this time,” principal of Cumberland High School Darien Henry had said.

“I am not seeing public schools being given the all-clear for opening at the end of 14 days based on the thrust of the Government to aggressively contain community spread related to the coronavirus. Schools can be fertile ground for an exponential spread of the virus so I am not seeing the opening of the doors of schools,” he added.

His colleague at Central Branch Primary, Michael Sutherland, was of a similar opinion, telling the Observer that he had already cancelled his plans for the summer.

“It is quite likely that the schools will not be reopened for a while. I have already conditioned my mind into thinking that we will be working this summer to catch up with our students,” Sutherland said.

However, he said the school administration is increasingly concerned about students regressing in their literacy and numeracy abilities because a number of parents have not welcomed the remote learning approach.

“Quite a number of them (students) came to us a level or two lower than they should be, but with our various intervention programmes they are slowly taken up the accepted levels. With this lockdown, I'm afraid there will be some serious regression. We are trying to do our teaching remotely but parents complain that the prime minister said no school and we are forcing their children to do school work,” he shared.

Central Branch, which previously had an all-age division, has a school population of 350 students.

A teacher of an early childhood school on the outskirts of Spanish Town, who asked that her name be withheld, raised concerns about anticipated behavioural regression in addition to the academic slide among her students.

“After a long holiday when they come back to school it's like you never did anything with them. You take one step forward and 10 steps back, because when they are at home they are exposed to indiscipline and 'bad talking', and if you try to correct them or discipline them, the same parents come down on you,” she said.

Also in Spanish Town, vice-principal of a two-shift primary school, who said she had foreseen that the resumption of school would not be allowed until April, voiced concern about the Government's distribution of social welfare meals to schools during the closure.

“If school is out and we should keep social distance, why send nutri-buns to school? Someone has to go and deliver and either parents or students have to collect,” the educator said.

The Ministry of Education had previously said the meal delivery was being continued in an effort to provide for students whose only meal for the day is had at school.

— Kimone Thompson

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