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State homes keeping up with distance learning - CPFSA finding ways to cope with resource challenges

Published:Sunday | May 3, 2020 | 12:16 AMKavarly Arnold - Sunday Gleaner Writer

Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency.
Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency.

Western Bureau:

With the closure of schools since March 13 as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus in the island, state childcare facilities have found themselves in a tough spot trying to keep thousands of wards engaged in distance-learning efforts with a heavier strain on already meagre resources.

Rosalee Gage-Grey, CEO of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA), told The Sunday Gleaner that while some of the facilities have in-house schools, the majority of state wards are enrolled in public institutions. This has increased pressure on the resources, and creative ways are being found to avoid clashes and facilitate all students.

“It is challenging to have all the children home at once, but we are utilising the resources. We have to continue the homeschool,” said Gage-Grey, who added that the homes were following the Ministry of Education’s guidelines.

“From the reports we have had, the children are receiving their work from the respective schools, and the homes are facilitating that. We are really utilising the resources that the Ministry of Education has for the general population in the homes. We haven’t had any adverse reports in terms of people not coping with it and we are monitoring daily.”

Gage-Grey said that while all homes have essential equipment to facilitate remote learning, the ratio of children to equipment could be overwhelming. She said that the development of time-management schedules has so far helped ease the tension.

“We just did an assessment and we know that the homes have resources in terms of Internet access and computers. As you would expect, it is challenging having so many children at home at the same time, but we are working to make do with what we have so that they (children) can continue their education at home. It would call for a lot of scheduling for access to equipment to ease the challenge,” said Gage-Grey, who added that homes were dealt another blow as they have restricted access to the premises and so cannot benefit from the assistance usually given by volunteers.

“That (using volunteers) is difficult because we have stopped visitation and it’s just the persons employed to us are there. The ministry is asking for retired teachers and are utilising those resources. They have some outline platforms and are using TV … and our children are using some of those,” said Gage-Grey, adding that “they have teachers on staff in a lot of the facilities.”

Gage-Grey said that there are about 1,000 children in foster care, and that social workers had adopted a supervision strategy to ensure that they were still continuing their education.

“They are expected to flag us if there are any issues, but so far we have not had any adverse reports,” Gage-Grey said.

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