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Troubling waters for Holy Trinity - Only quarter of first-formers log in for orientation, half of school missing in action

Published:Sunday | October 11, 2020 | 12:12 AMCorey Robinson - Senior Staff Reporter
Holy Trinity High School Principal Reverend Carl F. Clarke.
Holy Trinity High School Principal Reverend Carl F. Clarke.

Kingston College English teacher Louisiana Vernon engaging her students via the online platform.
Kingston College English teacher Louisiana Vernon engaging her students via the online platform.
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Of the 225 students placed in first form at the Holy Trinity High School in Kingston this year, only 160 have so far registered for online classes. Even more startling is the fact that only a meagre 60 students turned out for online orientation last Thursday.

The embarrassing reality had school administrators busy spending the first days of the new school year relentlessly trying to contact and finalise arrangements with students, teachers and parents – the last their hardest challenge thus far.

“This is not for a lack of trying,” Vice-Principal Beneze Barker Dunn told The Sunday Gleaner. “We have trained our teachers; we have a technology team in place – persons who were trained in e-learning; and we have also developed an application for the school with all the information – handbook, everything ... . Parents are just not literate enough to go on and manipulate the information.”

In second form, roughly 74 students have registered this term, while 95 have reported to school for third form. Another 104 have made contact in fourth form and 90 students in fifth form. This is roughly 45 per cent of the 1,162 students who are supposed to be registered for school.

Located on the fringes of downtown Kingston, Holy Trinity High School is etched between traditional top performers Kingston College and nearby Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha). All of its students are from tough surrounding communities with harsh parenting styles.

NEW FORMAT DIFFICULT

Teachers said they were already expecting rough waters as 60 per cent of the expected inductees to first form were illiterate.

So, too, are many of their parents, who administrators say have tested their best efforts. These are the ones fortunate with Internet connection and devices, too.

“For us, this is new territory. We are trying to reach and disseminate preparation information to students, teachers, parents, the whole set of stakeholders virtually, but in this new norm, it is quite difficult,” stressed Barker Dunn.

“Many of our students – even the best ones – will be left behind,” she said.

“We’ve started to create email addresses for our students, and just to create and disseminate that alone has been quite stressful and challenging. You have students and parents coming in here and they have no idea at all how to activate an email account,” Barker Dunn lamented.

ONLINE CLASS STRUCTURE

“One parent told me she can’t give the child her phone because she has to use it to sell Cash Pot (lottery),” continued Baker Dunn, disappointment creasing her brows. “We have to understand that this is their livelihood.”

Online classes are structured for an easier-handled 25 students per class each at Holy Trinity High. Yet, no more than 16 students logged on to any one class last week.

This is in contrast to orientation for first-formers at Kingston College’s (KC) Melbourne campus, which had roughly 80 per cent turnout, teachers said.

Decked out in fresh khakis and sharp purple and white ties, however, students were repeatedly cut off as they introduced themselves and shared professional desires.

“The Internet is our greatest challenge,” bemoaned one KC grade coordinator.

Metres away in the staffroom, however, English teacher Louisiana Vernon had no troubles.

At Holy Trinity, Principal Reverend Carl F. Clarke was facing a far different challenge.

“We hope that they (parents and students) will come on board. We have been taking our time. We are not like other schools who are rushing ahead. We are not a traditional high school,” he stressed. “A lot of our parents, they don’t read the newspapers and they don’t listen to the news, so you have to get the word out, and little by little, they trickle in.”

Clarke said that up to Thursday, some 660 persons had logged on to a recently launched school application, including parents.

corey.robinson@gleanerjm.com