MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Leaders of primary schools in Manchester and St Elizabeth say they are relieved and elated over news that the way is now clear for the resumption of face-to-face classes come November 8.
This follows Tuesday's announcement by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that 376 of the island's 759 primary schools will resume face-to-face learning.
Fifty-nine primary schools — mostly located in the deep-rural parts of St Elizabeth and Manchester where some children live within walking distance of the institutions — are set for resumption.
The leaders of Mile Gully Primary and Giddy Hall Primary told the Jamaica Observer that the resumption of face-to-face classes is a welcome move.
Principal of Mile Gully Primary, Heiley Salabie-Knight said the resumption brings relief for those struggling with connection issues and lack of devices for online learning.
“We are elated to hear of the face-to-face resumption of school. We had a consultation with our teachers and all are happy. Parents are ecstatic to get their children back to the face-to-face, as [it] will be much more rewarding,” said Salabie-Knight.
“Our teachers are eager to get back into the face-to-face operation, because we all know the challenges that the virtual world poses — unstable connectivity, incompatible devices — so we look forward to it and welcome the resumption,” added Salabie-Knight.
Located in Manchester North Western, the school has 198 students registered for this academic year.
Salabie-Knight said students will return to an enhanced environment come November 8.
“We are ready; we are just putting in our final touches in terms of brightening the environment. We are repainting so that the students will come back to an inviting environment. We are putting a facelift on the walls of the institution and ensuring that we brighten the physical areas which, overtime, had become pale.
“We are just putting on the finishing touches in preparation for November 8 to accommodate our students in a welcoming, vibrant environment,” shared Salabie-Knight.
In the meantime, principal of Giddy Hall Primary, Dr Judith Clarke also welcomed the announcement from the prime minister.
“It is an excellent move, considering the many challenges my students are facing and my teachers — not to mention the parents! Giddy Hall will benefit much from reopening for face-to-face learning in that our students who were not engaged for an entire day, they will now get the privilege to be back in school,” said Clarke.
Giddy Hall Primary is located near Middle Quarters in St Elizabeth South Western.
Clarke said all students would be accommodated at her school, which has a small population of 42.
“We will not go as usual from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm; we will transition smoothly into face-to-face mode in that we will start with 9 am and end at 2 pm, and gradually go back to our regular time. We welcome that when it comes on November 8, because we have been through this before when the schools got the go-ahead in January, we were among the set of schools that reopened. It is not new for us,” said Clarke.
“We have gone through the inspection with the Ministry of Health [which] was on Monday to start, so we are now putting things together regarding the Ministry of Education.
“I have the accommodation for my enrolment. I am under 100 students so I have the capacity to have everyone in. We have gone through and done the spacing of the benches and seating arrangements,” added Clarke as she pointed out that the parents of her students are eagerly awaiting the resumption of face-to-face classes.
“We are going to have another sensitisation meeting with our parents, because they were looking at November 1, so we are going to concretise everything for November 8. We were pending the go-ahead from the Ministry of Education and the prime minister,” she said.
At least one other institution, Holland Primary School, is hoping to reopen for face-to-face classes after November 8 and has started the preparations to engage the ministries of health and education.
Principal of Holland Primary Simone Doctor said the school, which has 256 students, was in 'pre-preparation' mode.
“I would be in the middle ground schools, but would not be slated for November 8….We are putting things in place and will be calling in the Ministry of Health for an inspection after which we would send off that report to the Ministry Education which would give the final go-ahead,” said Doctor.
“Based on what was announced Tuesday I would go ahead now and continue my preparation, because we were always in pre-preparation mode,” added Doctor.