Minister of Education, Science and Technology Michael Browne is assuring the general public that everything will be done to create a safe environment for students when the new school year commences on Sept. 7.
During a press conference on Tuesday to update the nation on plans for the new academic year in the COVID-19 era, the Education Minister said cognizant of the concerns being expressed by the general public, parents and guardians about students’ health and safety when they return to school plants, consultations have been held with key stakeholders in developing a plan that aims to alleviate those anxieties.
The ministry unveiled a slew of protocols, policies and plans regarding the pending reopening.
Here are the highlights of this morning’s Press conference:
1. There is a phased in approach and there will be blended learning ( face-to-face and virtual).
2. There will be some schools on a shift system and days on, days off for some large schools.
3. There have been upgrades to the school plants to include additional desks and chairs, hand-washing stations, dispensers, water tanks.
4. Students and teachers will be provided with two masks and hand sanitizer kits by the Ministry.
5. The official learning platform is Google Classroom, therefore blended learning is supported by Google Classroom.
6. There will be parent training in Google classroom on ABS so that they too can understand how to use it.
7. Teachers will be offered continuous professional development training.
8. Psycho -social (emotional) needs will be taken into account guiding the return to normalcy for both teachers and students.
9. ABS channel 11 will be devoted to providing educational content.
10. Computer devices will be provided to enable Google Classroom, YouTube and streaming of content. (There seemed to be some uncertainty as to the promised $2 million to purchase devices and the Minister did not provide any clarification.)
11. Internet will be provided for all schools. Zero rating of all educational sites.( No mention of internet at students’ homes.)
12. A very thorough briefing which indicates that some level of preparation and planning has/ is being done by the Ministry.
13. Students will be constantly monitored for the wearing of masks. In this regard, breaks will be staggered.
14. There are special protocols and procedures for early childhood facilities (preschools and daycare centres).
15. All persons visiting schools will have their temperature checked.
16. There are protocols for vendors and entrepreneurs selling snacks on the school plants as well.