British Virgin Islands

Friday, Mar 05, 2021

Blended learning, shift system proposed for tentative Sept 21 school reopening date

Blended learning, shift system proposed for tentative Sept 21 school reopening date

Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley has proposed plan to implement a blended system of learning to include a shift system at select schools for the new academic year that is expected to start September 21, once approved by Cabinet.

During a recent video interview with a local media house, Dr Wheatley said the plan was constructed by his ministry and circulated to all stakeholders including schools.

“We are basically proposing a blended system of online learning and face to face instruction. We will not be able to accommodate all the students in school because of social distancing and we certainly will be observing social distancing in the new school year,” he stated.

“For the bigger schools, they certainly won’t be able to accommodate all the students at the same time, so we are proposing somewhat of a shift system. Some students will be in school, some students will be at home and then of course those who are at home will have an opportunity to be at school at some point,” the minister added.

Dr Wheatley also said the shift system will not apply in cases where schools with small student populations are large enough to accommodate all of their students.

Clear the air on recent school closure

The minister also cleared the air surrounding the lastest Public Health (COVID-19 Control and Suppression Measures) Order signed by the Minister for Health Carvin Malone.

The Order, which expires on October 31 unless extended by Malone, stated: “All schools shall be closed and all school-related extracurricular activities shall be discontinued.”

Wheatley said that no decision was made by Cabinet to keep schools closed until the aforementioned date. He said the control and suppression orders usually extend for a period of three months, and the announced statement to close school stems from a Cabinet decision orginally made back in March.

“When Cabinet makes a decision on schools — which Cabinet will be making a decision on schools shortly — the Order will be amended to reflect the decision of Cabinet,” he stated.

Order failed to mention summer schools and daycares

Dr Wheatley further said the Control & Suppression Order also “inadvertently” omitted a section which approved daycares, summer schools and preschools to operate in the territory.

He said: “Summer camps can continue, daycares and preschools can continue to operate. We are working with the Attorney General’s Office to get that included in the Order.”

“It should have been included in the Order because Cabinet did make a decision to open daycares, preschools and summer schools, and Cabinet has not reversed that decision, so the Order should reflect that decision of Cabinet,” Dr Wheatley further explained.

Concerns from former Education Minister

The announcements by Dr Wheatley comes days after former Education Minister Myron Walwyn raised concerns on the government’s decision to close all schools as announced in the Order.

In a post on Facebook, Walwyn recommended that the government look into implementing a shift system, and also revise their policy surrounding online learning since, according to him, it has placed a number of students at a disadvantage.


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