Senior students head back to classrooms under ‘new normal’
BRIDGEPORT HIGH School 11th-grader Tianna Fisher was not perturbed by new stipulations demanding physical distancing amid the partial reopening of secondary schools across the island yesterday.
More than 150 high schools were scheduled to reopen after being shuttered in March as the island recorded its first case of the deadly coronavirus. The reopening is to facilitate revision classes for students sitting external examinations and to help them wrap up school-based assessments for the Caribbean Examinations Council-administered tests.
‘No mask, no entry’ was the order of the day at Cedar Grove Academy and Bridgeport High schools in Portmore, St Catherine, with several sanitisation stations around the compounds and an isolation room as each prepared for any eventuality.
New way of life
Fisher said that while things have definitely changed, physical distancing was a new way of life that she will have no problem with.
“Before now, it was chaotic even at school because most times, I was unable to pass freely through the passages without being bumped, so I think it is a great way of dealing with that issue,” she said. “I have already adapted to the new measures and I would urge fellow students to quickly adapt to make sure we are all kept safe and in a way, it may also cause us to become more focused on our work.”
During a site visit yesterday, Junior Education Minister Alando Terrelonge praised the leadership of Bridgeport High, which is among a handful of institutions still employing a shift system, for efforts to adhere to the new safety guidelines.
“It is a gradual process, but certainly, the intention of the Government and the ministry is to make sure that all schools are off this system,” Terrelonge said.
The state minister also said that he was pleased with what he saw while at Cedar Grove Academy, the only secondary-level school in his East Central St Catherine constituency.
“I am very impressed with the measures Principal [Lacey-Ann] Blake and her team have implemented to ensure all the safety protocols have been achieved. They have gone above and beyond to do this,” said Terrelonge.
He pointed out that the ministry had also been providing resources to schools to help purchase sanitisation equipment.
“This is standard across all our schools in Jamaica and we remain here working with our teachers and principals so should any concern arise, then certainly we will consider,” he said.
Blake said that Cedar Grove had to modify the students’ timetable to cope with the new environment. Grade 11 students, for example, depending on their vocation will be allowed to leave school much earlier than is the norm. Sixth-form students will now be allowed to attend classes three days per week face to face and teachers will engage them online for the remaining two days.
“So far, we have identified 39 students who by reason of medical issues will not be able to part of the face-to-face classes. We have arranged with our teachers to cater to those students by allowing them to join each scheduled class through Zoom or any other online platform that the teacher is comfortable with,” added Blake.