It’s back to school - but not all campuses ready

By EARYEL BOWLEG

Tribune Staff Reporter

ebowleg@tribunemedia.net

WHILE public schools in Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma and New Providence will welcome students back to the classrooms for in-person learning today under a hybrid model, not every campus will be ready to accommodate pupils.

At a press conference yesterday, Ministry of Education officials explained how the hybrid model will work, allowing students to attend school on a reduced schedule while they are still expected to engage in learning activities when not on campus.

It has been mandated that not more than 50 percent of the student population is at school at any one time to limit the number of people in one physical space.

While the exact number of schools unable to open today was not revealed, a few area superintendents listed a number of institutions and when they would be open. Construction work was one of the main reasons given, among others, why all schools on the aforementioned islands will not reopen for face-to-face learning today.

Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd pointed to COVID-19 and funding issues to explain why repairs are still continuing.

“When those constructions were allowed many of the schools were able to complete those repairs and the extent where funding wasn’t available those schools that (were) impacted were not able to complete their repairs.”

Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) president Belinda Wilson told The Tribune that 11 schools in New Providence will not open for face-to-face learning because of “incomplete school repairs”, or renovations that have not been addressed as yet.

In western New Providence alone, seven schools will not be opening out of 12.

Students of Naomi Blatch Preschool, Yellow Elder Primary School, Gambier Primary School, Sybil Strachan, The Centre for the Deaf, T G Glover, and Gerald Cash Primary will not report to campus today.

For these schools, learning will continue virtually.

Theophilus Claridge, district superintendent of the Southern New Providence Secondary School District, said Anatol Rodgers students will report to campus on Friday with grade 7 and 10 students while R M Bailey will see 10th graders on campus that day.

He also noted L W Young and T A Thompson schools will not open today due to construction still on-going. Instead, they are set to welcome students on campus in about two weeks.

Parents were encouraged to communicate with schools and visit their platforms for more information.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said a contingency plan is built into the hybrid model in the case of an outbreak.

“We have face-to-face instructions going on in North Andros but we had a suspected case of COVID-19 about two weeks ago. What happened then was we closed the school, but the students just transitioned to virtual because virtual was already in place. So it’s this spectrum that we have in place of ways in which we deliver education it goes from face to hybrid to virtual,” he said.

“When safety is a concern we move towards the virtual. When safety becomes less and less of a concern we move towards face-to-face and so whichever of those three modalities appears to be the most appropriate for the time that is the modality. It might not be a whole island. It might be a particular school depending on the circumstances.”

Deputy Director of Education Sharon Poiter said schools are putting in place a means of providing an assessment of where students are in their studies when they return to classrooms.

“They’ve looked at the timetables and they will tweak those timetables. They’ve come up with what we would call an intervention plan. So those students who have not been able to access, they will be given instruction at the point where they actually are,” she said.

Schools closed last March as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ministry of Education switched a virtual platform. Schools reopened after the summer break last October, however schools in New Providence, Abaco, Eleuthera and Exuma were teaching virtually until given the go ahead to begin phased face-to-face learning today.