Get cracking on COVID back-to-school rules, Phillips says
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips is appealing to the Government to treat as a matter of urgency the protocols for the reopening of schools in September.
Educational institutions were ordered closed on March 13 as a containment measure amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
A major concern with which schools are now grappling is the prospect of accommodating students in cramped classrooms in the era of social distancing and sanitisation protocols.
“Schools need to know now, the principals need to know now and the teachers, what is going to be provided to enable them to continue to offer [education]. We want not just to build back the schools to what they were, but we need to take the opportunity to build back better, so that the result is better than what we had before,” Phillips said.
Further, he said the Government’s pace of planning “does not offer confidence” to teachers, students, or parents.
Phillips was speaking at Tuesday’s handover ceremony for the Tablet for Teachers Programme at Maxfield Park Primary School in his St Andrew East Central constituency.
Meanwhile, acting principal Tracey-Ann Holloway Richards expressed gratitude for the 20 tablets distributed to Maxfield Park which will allow the educators to conduct research and deliver lessons virtually. A total of 25,000 tablets have been allotted for distribution to teachers islandwide.
PARENTS MUST READY DEVICES
With no timeline on the pandemic, Holloway Richards has issued letters to parents imploring them to invest in smart devices. The school, which serves mainly inner-city students, has experienced “significant challenges” since the onset of COVID-19 in Jamaica.
“What we found is that many of our parents do not have access to the Internet. Our teachers struggled with getting lessons across to the students because most of the parents did not have a phone that could be connected to the Internet,” she said.
Maxfield Park Primary was only able to reach half of its population of 503 students via Internet-based lessons – a reality “that’s not good enough for us,” said Holloway Richards, adding that teachers resorted to printing worksheets.
She said there were concerns about returning to the classroom but was satisfied that the ministry has mandated that the first three weeks of the school year be used for assessment. The lag of structured learning in a single physical space will take some time to recover, the principal said.
“When our students go off on summer vacation for two months, it is so hard for us to get back into the teaching and learning mode, so imagine six months from March to September,” she said.