Minister for Education Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries, and Agriculture Dr the Hon Natalio D. Wheatley (R7) made the announcement via a statement on Wednesday, October 21 2020.
He said that at a special Cabinet meeting held on October 19, “it was decided that all schools be granted permission to be opened in a phased approach provided that they adhere to the established health and social distancing guidelines with dates of each phase to be determined by the Chief Education Officer and the Environmental Health Division in consultation with the Minister for Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries, and Agriculture.”
He said the Ministry of Education had been given the green light to phasing all students in public schools by grade levels in ways that best suit their circumstances, which will ensure the best for the students in attendance.
Dr Wheatley further said, while preparations for six feet social distancing measures have been ongoing in schools, given the number of students in classes, it will not be possible to accommodate all students at the same time.
He continued: “we are therefore proposing a phased timeline for the remaining groups of students. Specific reporting days will be communicated by the respective principals of schools."
He said on Monday, October 26, 2020, students in public schools in Kindergarten, Grade One and Grade Two will be allowed to attend school, while Grades Three, Four, Five and Six will be permitted from November 9, 2020. Grades Seven, Eight and Nine will commence school from January 4, 2021.
The Minister further said the Ministry proposes a blended/hybrid learning model of instruction in schools which he said is a mixture of traditional face to face classroom instruction with mobile learning and online activities which are both individualised and student-centred.
He explained: “this means that schools that can accommodate all their students with the physical distancing guidelines may operate fully on-site while incorporating some online learning. Other schools must engage a staggered schedule or a shift system to ensure the best results.”
Minister Wheatley said frequent e-learning in the classrooms is encouraged across the territory and clearly demarcated areas must be implemented in all schools for students.
Handwashing stations and hand sanitisers must be in all classrooms, masks or face shields must be worn, and students must walk with their own bottle of hand sanitiser.
Visitors to schools will be restricted, and each school will decide how visitors will be accommodated, he pointed out.
As it relates to lunch, the Minister said, parents must either provide a packed lunch for their children or arrangements must be made to have it delivered to the school as school vendors will not be available on campus during this phase.
In the meantime, the Education Minister informed that there would be training sessions for bus drivers in the week of November 2 to 6 and on November 9, 2020, socially distanced bus services will be available for those in need.
“We are appealing to parents to assume responsibility for transporting students to and from school between October 26 and November 6,” Dr Wheatley remarked.
He also called on parents to act as supervisors to their children as the online instructions will be held on some days.
“I urge you not to neglect to monitor and ensure that your children stay on task with their school work. Establish the routine of getting up and preparing for school as you would normally do. Further, you must ensure that your children attend school and work conscientiously throughout the day to master the content of each subject being taught.”
He also appealed to employers to allow some flexibility for parents in their employ to facilitate the supervision of their children.
Private schools, daycare centres, preschools, colleges and special groups of students in the public school system such as the technical education, special needs, marginalized and adult learning have been allowed to open for in-school instructions where approved.