Culturally, it is not at all uncommon for students to share textbooks and other stationeries as they receive lessons inside the classroom.
But Education Minister Dr Natalio Wheatley announced a halt on this practice to minimise any potential spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“All students must have their materials, including textbooks, writing tools, and electronic devices, as sharing will not be permitted,” Dr Wheatley stated in a recent sitting of the House of Assembly.
He also said parents are to ensure their children attend school with a face shield or mask and personal containers of hand sanitiser. The minister further said break and lunch times have been staggered for the grade levels to minimise students having the opportunities to gather in groups.
“Parents are to secure packed lunches for their children from vendors if they are not able to give them lunch from home. School dismissal will also be done in a staggered manner by grade levels as determined by the principals of each school. Transportation of students to the campus is still the responsibility of the parents. The organised bus transportation will continue for secondary students who utilise this means to attend school,” he stated.
“Electronic devices must be used in school daily. This means that despite the fact that students are now back in the classroom, the use of technology in the teaching and learning process will continue. As we have determined this methodology and instructional format, using electronic devices, is now official in school delivery; electronic textbooks, as well as Google Classroom must be fully utilised. Principals are challenged to ensure that this happens in each school on a regular basis,” the minister added.
So far, educational institutions such as Elmore Stoutt High School (ESHS), Bregado Flax Educational Centre and the Enid Scatliffe Pre-Primary School continue to utilise the hybrid/ shift modality and gradually increase the number of students daily on campus.
For ESHS, selected groups from Grades 7 to 9 are attending classes on campus while the majority of students in those grades remain in online classes.
However, Cabinet this month approved for the social distancing requirements inside classrooms to be reduced from six feet to three feet. With this setup, Dr Wheatley said more sessions on campus will be gradually introduced.
“For the senior school, plans are to eventually implement a shift system to have all students attending classes five days a week,” he stated.
“While the major setbacks for all three schools are centred on the shortage of available resources to accommodate the student population, the ongoing reconstruction at Bregado Educational Centre, secondary division, is an additional constraint with the rebuild works of buildings two and three. As a result of the construction, the number of students on the secondary division of the school campus has been limited to the technical students, special education and marginalised groups. Construction works are nearing completion, and the final walkthrough and handover is scheduled for the 5th May. We are looking forward to our staff and students being able to occupy the buildings by the end of May 2021,” the ministers stated.
He continued: “For the Ivan Dawson Primary School, infrastructural works and campus clean-up, which have been ongoing since 11th January 2021, are nearing completion. The repairs are completed, and the next phase of thoroughly cleaning the building will begin. This we anticipate to take place once the necessary resources can be secured to complete the cleaning process. The school remains at the Cane Garden Bay Baptist Church hall for classes.”